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2011 | 102 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1



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User reviews

1 user review

Movie appeal



Theatrical release date

 24 August, 2012
 31 August, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from Samsara Blu-ray

Samsara Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, September 6, 2012

Fans of the 1992 picture “Baraka” have been waiting two decades for some type of glorious follow-up to attack screens. “Samsara” is that long-awaited continuation, once again plunging viewers into the alien landscape that is our Earth, pulling at the threads of life to acquire a sharper sense of humanity in motion as it moves toward times of destruction and, in some cases, technological immortality. It’s a mesmerizing viewing experience, returning to the battle grounds and blissful encounters of “Baraka” while expanding on themes of humanity, existence, and consumption, captured with painstakingly precise cinematography and supported by a layered selection of music.

As with “Baraka,” “Samsara” isn’t a traditional documentary. There’s no narration, notification of location, or description of on-screen events. Director Ron Fricke elects to bathe the viewer in a sensorial wash of colors, sounds, and oddities, creating a vague travelogue as the production carries to the four corners of the globe to best realize a rounded sense of experience. It’s not a novel storytelling approach, but one that’s bravely achieved by the helmer, who places his trust in the audience as cameras capture all types of bizarre subjects and puzzling locations, with a knotted thematic push that challenges as much as it inspires. Although specialized product, “Samsara” isn’t impenetrable. In fact, it registers as deeply as viewer allows, keeping the moviegoing event profound on a visual level for those looking for a ride, while supplying a richer concentration on the ways of the world for the more academically minded.

Admittedly, it’s never easy to keep up with Fricke’s trips around the world (25 countries in all), though the production is wise enough to introduce a sense of culture and religion to position perspectives and encourage deliberation. Myanmar is a particularly popular stop on this journey, drinking in golden statues and expansive Buddhist temples, while wild-eyed performers stare deep into the lens, unnerving and hypnotizing the viewer with presentations of dance and intricate, vibrant make-up design. “Samsara” also takes particular note of the natural world, though stopping just short of nature documentary clichés. Instead, we see the aftermath of disaster and the swell of fresh threats, processing the haunting reality of destruction and its unnerving stillness. The bustle of city life is also explored, taking note of the claustrophobic grip of urban living, yet studying its unheralded order. A sequence in Dubai is particularly stunning, with spines of beachfront property arranged with majestic symmetry.

While these snapshots of cities and nature are fascinating, they pale in comparison to the human sequences of “Samsara.” Finding true inspiration in the oddity of life, Fricke exposes a wealth of disturbances and unexpected serenity while strolling around the planet. It’s an opera of order and ambition, focusing on lifelike robots in Japan that eerily mirror their creators, a prison where the inmates carry out highly choreographed dances to busy themselves (the cells are wall-to-wall felons), and the decadence of dancing women in Thailand, where Fricke takes his time examining the ladies before slyly revealing suspicious bulges in tight bikini bottoms. “Samsara” has a sense of humor, but it’s largely sobering, including a recurring theme of consumerism and its vicious cycle, where Americans coldly process food sources in cavernous feeding arenas, devour highly caloric junk to a point of explosion, and seek medical attention to slice away the surplus fat. While it’s rarely graphic, “Samsara” can be quite barbed with its messages, including a sojourn into the world of gun manufacturing, proud family armament, and the ravages of violence on the human body.

Using the ceremonial construction of a sand mandala for symbolic bookend sequences (an art of such precision, it could carry its own feature), “Samsara” is teeming with hypnotic sights, capturing a massive swirl of human bodies around Mecca and the display of love from a parent to a child. It’s an impactful slice of life sold with exceptional clarity and artfulness, and while it doesn’t cover any new artistic ground, “Samsara” remains spellbinding and illuminative, pure art-house porn for adventurous moviegoers thirsting for a reconnection to the complexity and purity of life.

Director: Ron Fricke

» See full cast & crew

Samsara, Forum Discussions

Last post
Samsara (Baraka sequel) 47 Sep 07, 2012
Samsara sequel to Baraka 12 Jul 23, 2012

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