Film review: SAMSARA, from Built For Speed

For those who have seen the “qatsi” films Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi, Samsara will be pretty familiar. The film is essentially, an hallucinogenic document of the world and its people conveyed through images of the vast chugging machinery of civilization and nature all backed by new-age ambient music.  The film comes from Ron Fricke who gave us the similar Baraka in 1992.

Some of the images are stunning, particular the aerial shots of deserts, wilderness landscapes, gleaming city-scapes, teaming, fetid slums and urban chaos. The use of 70mm film makes this an often astonishing visual experience.

As remarkable as these images are, there is still a feeling of forced profundity due to the often overbearing music and the irritating cliché of having people stare at the camera with angry facial expressions.  One image, however, of a soldier hideously disfigured by war juxtaposed with a colourful, rigidly choreographed military parade is genuinely chilling.

We could have done without the weird performance art sequence where a guy smears his face with clay and carves it into all sorts of bizarre shapes and expressions; it was like a part of the film Holy Motors had suddenly invaded Samsara.

The term Samsara concerns the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, a theme conveyed through this film’s images of humanity’s wondrous complexity, creativity and destructiveness.  This concept may not, however, be riveting to everyone and in the absence of any narration or analysis, this film may, for some, outstay its welcome.  Still, it is definitely worth checking out for some of the most amazing images of Earth ever captured.

Expect this visual freak-out film to be popular at outdoor screenings where the certain types of illicit smoke are less conspicuous than in a cinema.


Nick’s rating: Three and a half stars.

Classification: PG

Director(s): Ron Fricke

Release date: 26th Dec 2012

Running time:  102 mins

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