A great movie is a feat of interweaving a powerful message with incredible visuals. It should make us consider the world we live in while still enchanting us with larger than life edifices rising effortlessly from the ground and immaculate scenery stretching across the screen. Imagine a film that manages to capture all this without the help of special effects or even words. Samsara is a visually enticing journey around the world solely told through a series of vivid breathtaking images and a mix of various rhythms and tunes.
As someone drawn to intricate plotlines, three-dimensional characters, and a dramatic script, I was unsure how I’d react to Samsara. An hour and forty minutes sitting in the Landmark Sunshine Cinema on East Houston Street watching images of life roll before my eyes initially did not seem like an ideal movie night. However, to my surprise, Samsara turned out to be a captivating and moving nonverbal documentary.
Filmed over a period of five years in a variety of countries, Samsara (meaning “journeying” in Sanskrit) is a beautiful portrayal of the Earth. Filmed entirely on 70mm, the film captures a variety of scenes, both common and unusual. Viewers embark on an adventure around the world to explore nature and civilazation. The film depicts life in different part of the world and contrasts cultures. Viewers experience different traditions and understand how different societies utilize their given resources to meet their needs.
Samsara is a cinematographic masterpiece. Filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson choose many unique angles. I especially loved the panoramic and overhead shots. You soon notice many interesting shapes and patterns which have been carved into the Earth, be it by humans or by natural forces. Besides providing a new perspective, wide-angle shots also give you a sense of the vastness of the world. You don’t realize how far the sand stretches in the desert nor do you notice how many lights illuminate a city during the nighttime.
The music of Samsara is another success of this brilliant film. Comprised of entirely original music, the soundtrack features a variety of different sounds and styles. Some sections sound exotic, mysterious, and ancient, while others, in contrast, sound upbeat and mainstream. The music acts as a guide to viewers. Each composition and piece cleverly complements the scene being shown on screen. The music also helps to smooth out transitions. While the music enhances the experience, the occasional silences in the film also have a dramatic effect. When the music fades out, viewers concentrate and focus on the images. These pauses highlight important images and also give the audience a chance to digest on what they have seen.
The combination of visual and audio creates a unique film. Samsara shows us that all different kinds of societies can, in fact, be similar. It encourages us to reflect on our connections with the rest of the world. We all share the need to provide for our people and the Earth we call home.
Photo by baracksamsara.com