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Prepare yourself for an unparalleled sensory experience. Filmed over a period of almost five years and in twenty-five countries, SAMSARA explores the wonders of the world from sacred grounds to industrial sites, looking into the unfathomable reaches of man s spirituality and the human experience. Photographed entirely in 70mm and transferred to 4K digital projection format, SAMSARA s mesmerizing images of unprecedented clarity illuminate the links between humanity and the rest of nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, SAMSARA is a guided meditation on the current of interconnection that runs through all of our lives.
Filmed over five years, in locations in 25 countries, it is the kind of experience you simply sink into. --Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times
SAMSARA stares at Asian temples, African tribesmen, and chickens bound for slaughter with the same blank eye. --Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
The world SAMSARA gives us is strange and beautiful, and in places disturbing, but it also seems manageable, even in its vastness, and perhaps too easily consumed through beautiful images. --A.O. Scott, New York Times
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I'd say it depicts both aspects of humanity: our striving for something transcendant, something spiritual, as well as our lower nature leading to exploitation of others and of the environment. And it hints at a relationship between our own spiritual progress (or lack thereof) and the earth's response to us.
Many of the scenes depict places of worship, from most of the world's great religions. Interspersed with them are many fantastically beautiful natural scenes (suggesting to me at least that the earth itself is like a temple in which we can
appreciate the Creator's handiwork). And also interspersed are scenes of sorrow, disaster and wrong-doing, on
individual and collective scales. For example there are scenes of terrible devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina
(at first I thought this was from the tsunami off Indonesia in 2004; probably some coastal scenes from that event looked
The word "Samsara" has a long tradition in Eastern religions, associated with the idea that the soul is reborn in the world many times in a process of spiritual evolution. One does not have to believe in the idea of reincarnation, I think, to recognize that the title reflects the idea that life is a spiritual journey and a search for the eternal amid the transitory.
One "central" image (because the film shows it early on and returns to it again, including toward the end) is of a Buddhist monk instructing young students in the art of creating sand pictures. The grains of sand are beautifully pigmented with the most vivid imaginable colors: blue, green, red, gold, etc. They are placed so carefully that it appears pretty much one grain at a time. The complete image is a type of mandala of great beauty. When it is completed, the "painter" straightens up and they all gaze at the beauty of the work of art wordlessly for a moment. Then the monk squats down again, and sweeps all the sand away. Gone is the
work of art, created with such loving care and hundreds of hours of work. No sooner is it finished than it is erased.
One scene in this film also appears in "Workingman's Death" by the German director Glawogger. That depicts sulfur mining on the slopes of a volcano in Indonesia.
Another of what I found the most fascinating scenes is from a prison in the Phillipines (the location was not stated during the scene) in which all of the male inmates practice a group dance together, set to music (while female inmates and prison guards watch on). The inmates are obviously very much enjoying this rather artistic workout.
If you watch this it should definitely be in high-definition, as you will miss some of the beauty of the scenes in a lower definition format. I very much enjoyed this and thought it one of the best movies I had watched in the year.
It isn't all ugly. Much of the film we see the destruction our desires have on the world, but book-ended to this are scenes of amazing Buddhist artistry and performance. These Buddhist-arts require so much time, energy, and devotion. And they exist only as things to do in the moment. The Buddhists spend hours creating an intricate mandala of sand. They smile at it, a culmination made from so many people, probably hundreds of hours, and then they just wipe it away. The joy was had, the creation is done, why attach to it any longer? This Buddhist-ideal juxtaposes harshly to the rest of the film.
Great filming, and melancholic. A reviewer on the cover calls the film "uplifting". I'm doubtful that person even watched the film. It's not uplifting at all, because it really shouldn't be. But it does carry beauty in it, and sort of seems to persuade at the end that we needn't worry about mankind's impossible problems, because sand and dust will solve everything in time. Not uplifting, but I wouldn't call it dreary either. It is, at the very least, honest, and at times, beautiful.
Irregardless of what the creators say, Samsara is very similar to Baraka - similar time lapse sequences, similar "dead on" portraiture, similar (very) soundtrack. A couple of the locations from Baraka are revisited, and shot from different (and stunning) vantage points. There seems to be more aerial shots in Samsara.
Once you reach the conclusion of these two works, I think that Baraka is more successful at feeling like a complete experience, and I would recommend that people watch it first to see if this style of film is their cup of tea.
Note that Samsara does have a higher amount of images that can be disturbing.