Ron Fricke is back with more of his nature porn, along the lines of his BARAKA and films his shot like KOYAANISQATSI. The title derives from the Tibetan (“the ever turning wheel of life”), and Fricke’s wheel is as epic as the globe itself. Shot over four years, visiting almost two dozen countries and capturing the images on 65mm stock (projected in glorious 4k at the Lightbox venue), this is a sumptuous film visually, equal to his previous celebrated works.
Yes, SAMSARA is meditative, almost drowsy in its pace, but it takes the viewer to some truly astonishing landscapes and vistas. Seldom do parts of our world seem so extraterestrial, be they natural formations or temples poking from a Burmese jungle. Shot after shot leaves one’s mouth agape as the sheer scope and beauty of the composition.
The film even travels to New Orleans, capturing the destruction wrought by Katrina. This is no simple travelogue, Fricke clearly has an agenda, tying our own behaviours and actions to the roles that nature provides, that circle turning evermore regardless of who it tramples on the way as it moves forward. It is a patient film, almost as patient as the monks we see grain-by-grain crafting a sand mural. No better metaphor exists in the film visually then at the end, when the monks blow the grains of sand into a pile, the colours mixing so that they’re almost impossible to distinguish from one another (like the individuals in the crowd shots that made KOYAANISQATSI so celebrated). Yet, in the clarity of the image, we can still pick out individual grains, unique colours that on first glance are monochromatic but are in fact made up from the varied colours we witnessed at the outset.
Stunning, meditative, lovely, epic, SAMSARA is a visual feast, and a welcome return from this most unique, patient of documentarians.