Directed by Ron Fricke
Director Ron Fricke is known for his keen eye for natural beauty and masterful use of time-lapse photography, with documentaries such as Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka under his belt, even dabbling in the mainstream world of film as cinematographer for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
With the recent advent of the 70mm film, Fricke returns with Samsara, utilizing the incredible new high-resolution cinema format with stunning visuals from some of the most remote corners of the globe.
Samsara, which is Sanskrit for "the ever-turning wheel of life," offers a guided meditation to encourage viewers to think about their world in a new light. Entirely driven by its captivating visuals, we are treated to sweeping aerial shots of Thai temples, close-ups of a volcano erupting and spectacular time-lapse shots of the Sahara Desert. Tidal shifts, sunrises, majestic waterfalls and wind-blasted rock corridors are shot from interesting angles, affording new perspectives on natural wonders we take for granted.
But, despite its lack of verbal narration, don't let Samsara fool you into thinking it lacks an agenda. Fricke juxtaposes many of the natural beauties with dehumanization caused by modern civilization, seemingly advocating a holistic perspective that intends to make us think twice about our actions. Around the time we are shown a burka-clad woman standing in front of a Dolce & Gabbana underwear advertisement featuring scantily clad men in homoerotic poses, Fricke's message begins to come through loud and clear.
The extravagance of Dubai is contrasted with the poverty and squalor of a Malaysian shantytown, while an African mother nursing her baby is contrasted with a tattooed Hispanic man in L.A. as he cradles his child. Temples of worship are weighed against temples of industry: monks gathered for prayer are pitted against office cubicles full of corporate drones, and a woman undergoing a plastic surgery procedure is compared to a collection of sex dolls, seguing into a showcase of strip club dancers.
The most disturbing sequence comes by way of meat processing, which showcases the culling of the animals to the assembly line packaging. Fortunately, the slaughter is juxtaposed with overweight Americans binge-eating at a Burger King and shoppers at a Costco stocking up on toilet paper, which is sure to elicit a chuckle (or groan).
While the film's heavy-handed message may grate upon some viewers, Fricke reminds us that there is an inspiring world out there. Samsara's visual splendour prevails and will resonate long after you've left the theatre.
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