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Wheel of Time (2005)

The Dalai Lama , Lama Lhundup Woeser , Werner Herzog  |  NR |  DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: The Dalai Lama, Lama Lhundup Woeser, Takna Jigme Sangpo, Matthieu Ricard, Madhurita Negi Anand
  • Directors: Werner Herzog
  • Writers: Werner Herzog
  • Format: Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English, German, Tibetan
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Fox Lorber
  • DVD Release Date: October 25, 2005
  • Run Time: 80 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Shipping: Currently, item can be shipped only within the U.S. and to APO/FPO addresses. For APO/FPO shipments, please check with the manufacturer regarding warranty and support issues.
  • ASIN: B000AQ68Y6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238,039 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Wheel of Time" on IMDb

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  • Filmography
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Editorial Reviews

As filmmaker and cultural anthropologist, Werner Herzog brings his unique powers of observation to Buddhist rituals in Wheel of Time. The documentary's title refers to the central symbol that forms the physical and spiritual hub of an intricately detailed sand mandala that is the centerpiece of the Kalachakra initiation, a Buddhist ceremony that attracts several hundred thousand monks and pilgrims to Bodh Gaya, India (the original site of the Buddha's enlightenment) in 2002. Through well-chosen images and his own sparse but effective narration, Herzog chronicles this spiritual conclave, incorporating brief interview clips with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, a lively debate between high-level monks at the gathering, an interview with a Tibetan political prisoner who'd spent 37 years in jail, and a visit to the sacred Mount Kailash in Tibet, where the faithful endure a high-altitude 52-kilometer trek to worship on holy ground. Having recovered from illness that prevented his full participation in the Bodh Gaya ceremony, the Dalai Lama appears at another Buddhist ceremony in Graz, Austria, where another sand mandala symbolizes the deep significance of Buddhist inner peace. Herzog's fascination with these rituals is infectious, and with a powerful soundtrack of Tibetan music and Buddhist monks' chanting, Wheel of Time achieves its own quiet quality of grace. --Jeff Shannon

Product Description

Wheel of Time is acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog's (Grizzly Man, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo) gorgeously photographed look at the largest Buddhist ritual in Bodh Gaya, India. It is said that Buddha found enlightenment under a tree in Bodh Gaya and today, Buddhist monks are ordained in this holy place. Herzog magically captures the lengthy pilgrimage (which for some, is over 3,000 miles), the monk's creation of the beautiful and intricate sand mandala (the wheel of time) along with many secret rituals that have never been seen before on film. He delivers a personal and introspective look at what Buddhism really means to its most ardent followers, as well as giving outsiders an intimate look into a fascinating way of life.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cultivating compassion January 27, 2006
In 2002 Werner Herzog went to India to observe the festival of Kalachakra, the ritual that takes place every few years to allow Tibetan Buddhist monks to become ordained. An estimated 500,000 Buddhists attended the initiation at Bodh Gaya, the land where the Buddha is believed to have gained enlightenment. The resulting documentary, Wheel of Time, is not a typical Herzog film about manic eccentrics at odds with nature but an often sublime look at an endangered culture whose very way of life is threatened. Herzog admits that he knows little about Buddhism and we do not learn very much about it in the film, yet as we observe the rituals, the celebrations, and the devotion of Tibetan Buddhists we learn much about the richness of their tradition and their strength as a people.

The festival, which lasts ten days, arose out of the desire to create a strong positive bond for inner peace among a large number of people. The monks begin with chants, music, and mantra recitation to bless the site so that it will be conducive for creating the sand mandala. The magnificently beautiful mandala, which signifies the wheel of time, is carefully constructed at the start of the festival using fourteen different tints of colored sand, then dismantled at the end to dramatize the impermanence of all things. Once built, it is kept in a glass case for the duration of the proceedings so that it will not be disturbed. The most striking aspect of the film are the scenes showing the devotion of the participants. Using two interpreters, Herzog interviews a monk who took three and one-half years to reach the festival while doing prostrations on the 3000-mile journey.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I found this documentary frustrating for the reason that everyone else did: Herzog shows us stunning images of ritual and devotion, but he says little to nothing about what any of it means. He interviews, for example, someone who traveled to a holy ground over 3,000 miles over 3.5 years, lying face down on the ground in ritual prayer every few steps, but he does not ask the obvious question: Why'd you do it? What does this mean to you? Why is this so important?

Such omissions are so glaring that they could only be intentional. Herzog wants the images and sounds to do the talking. Or, more accurately, he just doesn't want the dark corners of human experience to be ruined by words.

I think to be able to appreciate (or even tolerate) this film, you've got to understand Herzog's take on this. Consider, for example, these quotes from a GQ interview:

"I think psychology and self-reflection is one of the major catastrophes of the twentieth century. A major, major mistake. And it's only one of the mistakes of the twentieth century, which makes me think that the twentieth century in its entirety was a mistake.

"The Spanish Inquisition had one goal, to eradicate all traces of Muslim faith on the soil of Spain, and hence you had to confess and proclaim the innermost deepest nature of your faith to the commission. And almost as a parallel event, explaining and scrutinizing the human soul, into all its niches and crooks and abysses and dark corners, is not doing good to humans.

"We have to have our dark corners and the unexplained. We will become uninhabitable in a way an apartment will become uninhabitable if you illuminate every single dark corner and under the table and wherever--you cannot live in a house like this anymore.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars werner on the wheel January 24, 2007
I like to watch most anything by the documentarian Werner Herzog, and Wheel of Time was no exception. This film finds him in Bodh Gaya, India, where tradition has it that the Buddha first found enlightenment 2,500 years ago under the bo tree. Every few years a half million Buddhist pilgrims travel to Bodh Gaya for a sacred rite convened by the Dalai Lama called the Kalachakra ("Wheel of Time"). The pilgrims come from near and far, many by foot, making prostrations the length of the body the entire trip. One monk from Tibet took three years to travel the 3,000 miles, genuflecting the entire way. Others will make 100,000 of these prostrations once they arrive, a rite that takes six weeks. Central to the series of religious activities is a "mandala" or sculpture made of colored sands that the monks craft from a large stencil. The intricate work of art is destroyed after the rites, the sand returned to the earth, a symbol that all is transitory. In one scene the pilgrims circumambulate the 25 mile base of Mount Kailash (22,000 feet). Wheel of Time has less narration than other Herzog documentaries, leaving you to wonder what some of the throngs of worshippers are doing. Herzog is also much more circumspect with his typical critique. But the combination of color, scenery, history, religion, culture, and language make this a very good if not great film.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious viewing... May 24, 2012
Very well put together documentary. Some might think that it lacks commentary, but the absence of teacher like comments and explanations actually adds to the viewing. The focus of the documentary is Buddhism of the Tibetan tradition - very popular these days in many countries. One refreshing aspect of this documentary is its focus on ritual, often a part of Buddhism neglected by many in the 'west'. Overall, a well made presentation, informative and atmospheric: however, not a light production and one that demands a little concentration for full enjoyment.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid
What is it about middle aged white mean and their sudden love of Orientalism (or jazz, for that matter)? Is it a midlife crisis? Read more
Published on June 21, 2012 by Cosmoetica
5.0 out of 5 stars A video on the Kalachakra Mandala
This is a video about the Kalachakra Mandala. Very helpful for those trying to start a Kalachakra practice. Read more
Published on August 21, 2011 by Silvia Carry
5.0 out of 5 stars Wheel of Time
Wonderful documentary filled with visuals and simple explications about Buddhism , the Dali Lama , devotees including an insight to the people of faith that are not ordained.
Published on January 8, 2011 by Nunzio Belladonna
4.0 out of 5 stars Devoted monks and pilgrims highlight the Kalachakra Mandala Initiation...
A documentary in three parts: the Kalachakra Mandala Initiation in January 2002 for 500,000 pilgrims and monks at Bodh Gaya, India where the Buddha attained enlightenment; a visit... Read more
Published on September 16, 2009 by Jerome Ryan
3.0 out of 5 stars Great filmography - no substance
German filmmaker Werner Herzog as usual is exceptional at film and captures everyday life of Buddhists on their pilgrimage to Bhod Gaya. Read more
Published on May 16, 2009 by bernie
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
As many other Herzog's films, the WOT looks deceptively content less, with a narrative that is descriptive in the simplest possible way, but never explanatory - nor (and that is... Read more
Published on April 26, 2008 by kaioatey
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly Filmed
This is a stunning film with unadorned footage of Buddhist monks ... the film speaks for itself and cinematography is of the best quality.
Published on January 1, 2008 by Patricia Burke
3.0 out of 5 stars Amateurish documentary, but interesting
First of all, this is one of the poorest, most amateurish documentaries I have ever seen made by a so called "professional" film maker. Read more
Published on November 21, 2007 by KV Trout
5.0 out of 5 stars TIBETAN BUDDHISM ART
I love anything that has to do with sand mandalas and buddhism. Mandalas are complex to explain but their creation as well as their destruction is a fascinating aspect of the... Read more
Published on June 10, 2007 by Tania E. Lara Pretto
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating film...
The film is beautiful and fascinating. If you like the National Geographic-type films about exotic places and people like I do, you would get a kick out of this one. Read more
Published on February 27, 2006 by A. Heifetz
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