Samsara is a photographic masterpiece. Like Baraka and Chronos that came before it, Samsara mesmerizes with top notch visual acuity and musical orchestration to match.
Ron Fricke was the cinematographer on the astounding Koyaanisqatsi, directed by the brilliant Godfrey Reggio. These films are all travelogues of a sort, each with a different theme evidenced by the odd Native American titles. Fricke took over the helm to direct his own Baraka two decades ago which was similar in vein to his present work.
Samsara, the word, has a Buddhist connotation as well as Hindu—both are similar in the concept of reincarnation. The film is edited in such a way that the shots are juxtaposed sometimes quite randomly in order to let the viewer decide on the meaning. The overall message is clear and circular—humans, for better or worse, in myriad ways, have transformed the planet over and over and over.
If I had any complaints they would be the film felt rather anthropocentric and most of the locations will be somewhat familiar to you if you have ever traveled anywhere. However, the most intriguing sequences were those that humbled me, like the time lapse shots for example. They remind you that your on a giant orbiting rock through the black expanse of space. I also found the guy that rubbed dirt and clay all over his face to be extremely odd but riveting and indelible even though it felt out of place with the rest of the film. The prison dance was awesome as well as the syncopated marching—it feels like what your watching is impossible. My overall favorite shots ended up being the birds eye view of LA during the wee hours of the night. Just magical. Now all you need are some psychotropics!
Recommended Viewing: Baraka - Koyaanisqatsi - Timescapes
Bob Scale: The Critic: 7.5 - The Fan: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 72