If you’ve seen either of those earlier productions, you should know the drill by now. If you haven’t, then reading my review of ‘Baraka’ should pretty much give you the gist of this new ‘Samsara’ as well. Director Ron Fricke specializes in wordless montages of images photographed around the world. While that may not sound terribly exciting on paper, the results on screen make for sublime visual poetry.
Like ‘Baraka’ before it, ‘Samsara’ was photographed in stunning 65mm format. Fricke has an amazing eye, and he (or his producer Mark Magidson) manages to find and obtain access to beautiful objects and locations in this world that are rarely seen by Western eyes otherwise.
‘Samsara’ is very much of a piece with ‘Baraka’, and has no story, plot or characters to describe here. If I have any complaints about the film, they’re quite minor. A couple of the sequences feel, if not directly recycled from previous efforts, then at least repetitive of them. For example, both ‘Baraka’ and ‘Samsara’ have footage of Mecca during the Hajj, and I recognized at least one location previously used in ‘Chronos’. The film also has a few blunt juxtapositions (such as the interior of a munitions factory that cuts to the badly-mangled face of a war veteran, or the disturbing workings of a food processing plant jumping to some obese people eating fast food in time-lapse) that hit you over the head with their preachiness. Fortunately, these are few and far between.
Regardless, the imagery here is just amazing, and the experience of seeing a proper presentation of it on the big screen cannot be matched at home. Before my screening here at TIFF, we were told that the 65mm negative had been digitally scanned and oversampled at 8k resolution (much like the ‘Baraka’ Blu-ray), and that the theater installed a brand new Christie 4k projector specifically for this event. It was simply breathtaking to watch.
I managed to ask director Fricke if he’s felt any pressure to shoot one of these in 3D next. He said that he had already been thinking about it.