Ron Fricke’s Samsara weaves grand images and living music. Observing the “ever turning wheel” of birth, death and rebirth, the director / cinematographer builds on his previous films Baraka and Chronos. It is now streaming and on DVD.
Shot on 70mm film in 25 countries over five years, Samsara is one long, slow gaze at humanity and the Earth now. It’s wordless. There’s no opinion or commentary. It’s as if the Divine is watching us patiently, without judgment.
Samsara is a masterpiece for relaxation, meditation, and developing what is called the “neutral witness.”
Meditation spans disquiet, grace
Fricke seamlessly weaves time-lapse photography with still images. He regards babies’ baptisms and children’s coffins. The devastation of a post-Katrina New Orleans is shown. Factory farm animals, pitifully crowded, are herded toward slaughter.
Crates of bright, shiny bullets are shown. Guns are assembled. Fricke’s vision is timely.
A father, son and daughter stare unblinking into the camera. Each holds a rifle. The daughter’s rifle is pink.
Fricke’s evolution as filmmaker, cinematographer
Samsara updates Baraka, for example, as a massive glacier melts. It looks more at cities and culture, while Baraka is more spiritual. Chronos is a travelogue through time. Expansive in world view, each film compels you to consider East, West, North and South.
Among Samsara’s visual art is the making (and destruction) of a Buddhist sand mandala. All we see and experience will pass away. Seen from far above, a sea of Islamic pilgrims circles the Ka’bah in Mecca during Ramadan. A great sense of Oneness draws me in.
Take a close look at the Dance of Infinite Compassion performed by the Chinese Thousand-Hand Guan Yin dancers. They portray Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. Her final gaze is a blessing. You can feel it.
Being here now
With his longtime producer Mark Magidson, Fricke lavishes time and care on each project. Such quality is a gift. There are no special effects. This is the real world.
Michael Stearns (Baraka) spent six months scoring the film. Composers Lisa Gerrard (Whale Rider; The Insider) and Marcello De Francisci (Burning Man) play instruments of many cultures. Each was recorded live. Gerrard (Dead Can Dance) performs vocals.
Samsara: Take Action
Samsara 2011 / PG-13 / 1 hour, 42 min
Director: Ron Fricke
Genre: Documentary, Art House