REVIEW: Samsara (2011)

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Samsara is a unique and extraordinary feat of documentary filmmaking and explores, through a carefully considered ordering of breathtaking HD images, a series of worldly phenomena. It works as an often-mesmerizing trance-like journey that captures all forms of the human experience – including the natural, the spiritual and the artificial – and should provoke an array of reactions. One of the most prevalent themes is the juxtaposition between images of mass production and mass consumption, with a clear message to demonstrate the extent of humanity’s waste and convey how our planet has recently been ruined by both consumerism as well as natural disaster.

Despite the presence of no clear or direct message or political agenda for a large part, there are some sequences that are edited to evoke said message in a heavy-handed way. The rhythm of the images – though they are very interesting and stunningly beautiful – are inconsistent. Shots of seemingly unrelated places follow one another.

Sequences of the rounding up of processed chickens, the pump milking of cows and the removal of the inner organs of pigs for example – are quite distressing and clearly represent how manufactured our sources of nutrition have become. The fact that these processes exist is shocking to see before your eyes. These images are directly followed by sped-up captures of a crowded shopping mall and consumers purchasing products. Another instance of commentary involves the captures of guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition being produced followed by a lengthy close-up shot of a severely wounded veteran.

Further enhancing the film’s impact is the tremendous musical accompaniment, which has clearly been produced in a post-production stage. A film like this, lacking dialogue and narrative drive, requires such a powerful sensory accompaniment.

Samsara is certainly a weird film – similarly an awe-inspiring, enlightening and confounding experience. We feast our eyes on beautiful feats of filmmaking, images we have no comprehension as to how they were even achieved, and images we are unlikely to ever see again. Fricke and Magidson leave viewers with a lot to process and individually contemplate on, and though I found it to be a profound experience, it wasn’t quite as resonating as I’d hoped and expected it to be.

and a half

Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22