Reviewer: Sophie Hawkins
Visually stunning and undoubtedly intricate, Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson’s Samsara is a journey through time, countries and thought as the audience is swept along on the wheel of life.
The English translation of “samsara” is “circle” or “wheel” but it is sometimes translated as “the cycle of existence”.
Fricke and Magidson spent five years travelling to more than 25 countries to record on 75mm film the intricate, delicate and though-provoking images which are pieced together to create Samsara.
The film unfolds as a photographic essay, silently saying through images what words seem not to be able to. This is, unfortunately, where the film falls down.
The monotonous score which flows through the movie is designed to add to the meditative feel of the film, but it becomes draining and heavy, forcing the viewer into a battle to stay awake.
Having only visual clues to places and scenes, no narrative and no words to rely upon is similarly draining and too many questions arise. Not the questions the film makers want audience members to ask themselves, such as, “where do I fit in this wheel of life”, or, “why are we as humans the way we are”, but rather more irritating questions like “when is the next scene coming?”.
The film lacks momentum and although the images presented are beautiful and confronting the meaning behind them can be missed because of a lack of audience attention, or the fact the film is half-an-hour too long.
The beauty of some scenes is enough to warrant a viewing, but filmgoers looking for narrative or explicit story should stay away.Those looking for a meditation or a challenging cinema experience might enjoy Samsara and its elongated, psychological beauty.