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Samsara - Review

Samsara

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

RON Fricke has been down this path before with Koyaanisqatsi in 1992 and Baraka ten years later. One suspects his latest, Samsara, is designed to appeal to a new generation, although it’s hard to see just how wide its reach will be given the artistic leanings of the film.

The film, which derives its name from a Sanskrit word that reflects on the endless circle of life, takes the form of a non-verbal, guided meditation that takes viewers on a journey around the world.

Through powerful images pristinely photographed in 70mm, the film aims to illuminate the links between humanity and the rest of nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet.

The locations are many and varied, taking in everything from the wide open spaces of America (Yosemite and Yellowstone to name but two) to the crowded streets of Japan, the iconic geography of Jordan and Egypt and the differing religious elements of Europe and the Middle East, not to mention stop-overs in Burger King, battery chicken farms and mass milking stations for cows.

And the intent is to show the good and the bad of the world… the ugly as well as the beautiful.

But while eye-opening and certainly stunning, some of the messages behind the film are a little heavy-handed without telling us anything new.

If possible, it’s better simply to relax and take in the views, as Fricke’s expert cinematography enables iconic landscapes to unfold before you… either shrouded in mist or having the sun pulled like a curtain across them.

There’s even a certain amusement to be found in his depictions of everyday life, whether it’s traffic darting like lava-flow through crowded city streets at night-time, or people shuffling along like ants on their way to work, exercising in prison yards or arriving at and departing from the opera.

Art-house cinema of lofty pretension it may ultimately be but Fricke’s imagery is such that you can’t fail to be enthralled and even awe-struck at several points along the way, while battling to stay awake and frustrated at others.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 102mins
UK Release Date: August 31, 2012