Tuesday, September 4, 2012



Samsara Two decades after filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson created the astonishing "Baraka," once again, they bring us another visually striking film "Samsara" (USA 2011 | 99 min.). Even without a single dialogue or any subtitles on screen, the film captivates us with its magnificent and lavish images that stay with us long after the movie is over.

The film doesn't have a plot or a narrative, nor does it try to make a political point of view. (For example, some scenes in a slaughter house remind me similar footage in "Our Daily Bread," but they certainly invoke different reactions in two films.) The film simply quietly observes and amazingly captures the world on its 70 mm film. The entire film is like a dream sequence, and what a fascinating and beautiful dream it is!

As if randomly, the dream drifts from the ancient past to the present, from the living to the dead, from the heart of a city to a road less traveled, from primate tribes to modern societies, from the shocking poverty to the filthy rich, from a grand parade to a deserted desert, from mass production lines in a factory to miraculously detailed sand painting in a Buddhist temple...

Moment to moment, place to place, and frame to frame, the film creates a profound feeling of zen. We are magically included in the film's prolonged meditation experience, with soothing mood enhancing music. Although everything is captured in real life, what we see sometimes look like they are from a far away planet.

1000 Hands from SAMSARA

Now we are living in a much smaller world with advanced technology. Almost everybody has a camera at hand to take pictures constantly. But, that doesn't mean we are able to take pictures similar to those in the movie even we are given the opportunity to travel twenty-five countries in five years as the film's creators did. The filmmakers provide a unique angle to perceive the world. They blend everything seamlessly into the title theme, Saṃsāra, which means cycling of life.

One of the most striking elements in the film is the blank stares from many of the subjects photographed. They gaze into the camera fiercely without blinking. The stares are mesmerizing and even chilling sometimes, as well as incredibly intriguing. We can't help but wondering what they are thinking at the moment and what their stories are behind those seemingly blank stares. They are gazing at the world, while we are looking them back.

While the film takes our breath away with its stunning visual, it also leads us to ponder about the meaning of life, to appreciate the beauty of nature, to exam the consequences of human actions, and to reflect the moment of present.

This is the kind of films that should only be seen in a theater on a big screen. You might have a big screen at home, but it's simple not big enough for the film's grandness and for what it is capturing.

"Samsara," an Oscilloscope Laboratories release, opens on Friday, September 7, 2012 at Bay Area theaters.

FILMMAKERS IN PERSON: filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson will appear in person at Embarcadero Center Cinema on Friday, September 7 for a Q&A after the 7:15pm show, and to introduce the 9:50pm show.

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