film review: Samsara (2012)No Comment
I wished I’d seen Baraka. Because I think it might have made this film easier to review.
Samsara is a stunning piece of work. The film takes us across a world damaged by disaster, mechanised by industry, shrouded in ritual and punctuated by beauty. This world.
Probably best, but ill-, described as a documentary, Samsara takes is title from the Tibetan word meaning, literally, continuous flow. Less literally it refers to the repeating cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth in the Dharmic religions. The film itself is a wordless, non-narrative, look at the world around us. From every day tasks to spectacular celebrations Samsara weaves us a rich tapestry of colour, sound and light.
I’d never seen anything like it before and it’s difficult to know how to respond. I think that difficulty comes from the fact that there’s no need to respond. Samsara is essentially a work of art. No different from a walk around a gallery. We are not presented with heroes or villains, no damsels or babes. You take from it what you put into it. Much comment has been made of the slaughterhouse scenes but even those you can choose to respond to or not. To me, I took from it that they are as much a part of human life as the serenity of the fields of temples in Myanmar. I felt no moralising in this tale. Or at least I chose not to.
It has been described as a guided meditation and, in a way, that’s probably the best description I’ve seen. With music and images alone they create an ebb and a flow that your mind is helpless to follow. There is no jarring juxtapositioning, nor is there overuse of the mirroring of images across different cultures and situations. Instead there are patterns and waves. There are a hundred people, a thousand, or just one old face, telling the same story, while saying nothing at all.
Samsara gently leads us across this earth in a mesmerising, pulsating, display of beautifully shot scenes of life. Glimpses and vignettes of the unfamiliar, and very familiar, greet us then leave us to ponder in their wake. A 102 minute treatise on life as we live it.