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A 70mm film shot entirely without dialogue, just sound and images, on six continents and in 24 countries, exploring the formation and evolution of Earth, the ascendance of man and the consequences of technology.
For more about Baraka and the Baraka Blu-ray release, see Baraka Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 18, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Ron Fricke
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Baraka Blu-ray Review
'Baraka' is Blu-ray at its best.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 18, 2008
The thread that weaves life together.
Henry David Thoreau once said, "The world is but a canvas to the imagination." Perhaps he had Baraka in mind when first contemplating this now-famous quote. A film of startling grandeur that never ceases to inspire, Baraka is indeed a canvas that spans the world, bringing to life a wonder and spectacle that is second-to-none, a rousing portrayal of life as it is lived from the busiest city streets to the most remote corners of the globe, instantly transporting audiences to witness places and meet people never before so vividly captured or richly detailed. It is a story of the world, told not with words but with images so clear and striking that the eyes and mind will often deceive the viewer into believing he or she is no longer within the confines of a living room but in a bustling factory, a crowded subway, a sleepy village, or a grandiose and serene seascape. Baraka transforms theaters into gateways to the world where audiences witness in a mere 90 minutes what would have taken a lifetime several generations past. Baraka is life, not as we know it, and not even as we thought we knew it, but as it truly is, and it is a spellbinding experience.
Despite the lack of a traditional structure, there are clear running themes throughout Baraka. The film opens with long, lingering shots of nature, a series of phenomenal glimpses into its beauty and power, its scale and texture, its comforts and harsh realities that run the spectrum of the world's most exotic, dangerous, and grandiose locales. Later, the film displays mankind and the current peak of civilization, where the perspective often shifts to time-elapsed photography to emphasize the hustle-and-bustle of modern life in the big city. Such shots are accompanied by fast tribal beats that underscore the point, creating a nearly dizzying and surreal experience. Baraka then turns to the less glamorous side of humanity as it contrasts the average fast-paced workday of so many through visual emphasis on poverty-stricken street corners or a garbage dump where trash becomes treasure. The film continues by showcasing the ravages of conflict, focusing on the aftermath of the Gulf War and the haunting halls of Auschwitz which represent the most poignant segment of the film. Eventually, the film returns to nature as day settles into night and the world seems to stop, at least for the moment. Somewhere, on the other side of the world, the images of Baraka are played out in similar, but never identical, circumstances, and as always, the night brings with it a reprieve, a temporary halt in the ever-shifting global perspective, as nature and man prepare to play out similar scenes with the dawn of a new day.
The similarities between man and nature become apparent during a viewing of Baraka. Over time, both create splendid works of arts of unparalleled beauty and grandeur. Be it the Grand Canyon or Niagra Falls, or the Pyramids or Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, nature and man are artists, compelling entities that strive to not only survive and thrive but to improve and grow in strength, presence, and beauty. For as long as it may take to form a grand canyon or build a pyramid, the destructive forces of both man and nature are quick to lay waste to that which has been slowly and painstakingly brought to life. An earthquake may swallow a civilization, a storm may flood a village, a bomb may level a city, or hate may lead to the deaths of thousands of innocents. Baraka is this contrast of beauty and ugliness, showcasing both unabashedly yet respectfully. The film is an education all its own, not in the traditional sense, but in a way that allows for each viewer to find within the film a theme, a meaning, a world that is inaccessible for most but brought to startling life here.
Baraka will take viewers to places they recognize and to many that they won't. Where, when, and why the audience is in a particular place seems unimportant in the context of the film. The magic of the film lies simply in its wonders. In a way, it is refreshing not knowing where a shot is, who is in the frame, or what creature graces the screen. Baraka is about discovery, of appreciating the many natural and manmade wonders of the world, and it is a spiritual journey through civilizations both primitive and advanced as the film reveals the marvels of every corner of the world. Another amazing aspect of Baraka is how the camera can linger on one particular object, place, or animal for several moments and manage to captivate the audience. As the film flows from one object, creature, or locale to the next, sometimes drastically differing from the previous shot, the viewer effortlessly goes along for the ride, never once feeling artificially prodded and poked and forced along in the journey. Baraka is true reality television. The wonders of the world, some of which might be down the street, other which might be on the other side of the globe, are brought into living rooms and theaters with unparalleled spectacle and scope. The film is so enthralling that only something outside of one's control -- a meteor crashing into the media room, for example -- has the power to pull away viewers and shock them back into reality and the confines of their own slice of the vast world.
Baraka Blu-ray, Video Quality
Baraka offers a breathtaking 1080p high definition, 2.20:1-framed transfer. Filmed in 65mm and painstakingly and lovingly restored with an 8k UltraDigital HD Process, the film represents the current zenith of Blu-ray picture quality. The depth, clarity, and color reproduction of the film is incredible. Each scene provides awe-inspiring, reference-quality imagery that effortlessly places the viewer within each frame of the film regardless of its locale on the world's surface. It's a teleportation device of sorts, a trip around the globe that costs only as much as your HDTV, Blu-ray player, and the disc, and it's worth infinitely more than that. The level of detail is absolutely remarkable, almost too-good-to-be-true for home viewing -- and before now, it was. Take, for example, one of the first shots of the film, that of a Japanese Macaque relaxing in a hotspring. Not only does the spring's water flow and wave and look as natural as can be, but it practically invites viewers to approach their screens and put a toe in to test the temperature. The creature's fur is so detailed that one can practically count each strand, and the bits of water and ice droplets scattered about its mane just might send shivers down the spine.
The detail in every shot is exceptional, with the above simply setting the stage for what is to come. Stone-laden streets, the brick façades of buildings, an individual's hair, their garments, and facial detail all provide breathtaking clarity and true-to-life attributes. Colors are bold and true, never overblown or dull, with no artistic license but to provide the finest lifelike imagery imaginable. The depth of the film is simply astounding, and the scope is incredible. No detail is left unseen, no corner of the image is ever soft, and no color is never anything but vividly reproduced. The exterior texture of the huts as seen in chapter six -- as several people situated outside create jewelry -- reveals every crack, rough spot, and crease. Subsequent images showcase intricate clothing and jewelry featuring an array of colors, each distinct and separate, with no bleeding or smearing. These scenes merely exemplify what viewers will enjoy during the film's 97 minutes of visual bliss. There just aren't enough superlatives to discuss the visual power and prestige of this presentation. As stated before, it is the peak of home video imagery, and is another title that simply cries out for a large display. No matter the size of the screen, it will seem insignificant next to the majesty and scope of the film.
Baraka Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Presented with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack created from the original 24 track tape elements, Baraka sounds as good as it looks. Featuring excellent fidelity, first-rate imaging, and efficient and effective use of every speaker in the system, the world of Baraka comes alive through the wonders of its soundtrack. The low frequency effects throughout the film are captivating and attention-grabbing. Listen to a scene in chapter three featuring raging water, or a heavy rainstorm in chapter 9 and booming thunder that follows, to which the sound of a buzzing chainsaw replies. A large tree then crumbles to the ground, the end result -- a devastating sonic moment that brings that corner of the world and experience to life. Here, as throughout, the bass contributes mightily to add additional realism and power to the film. The bass is incredible, tight, and precise, the epitome of what good bass sounds and feels like. The soundtrack fluently reproduces music and effects, such as the chirping birds of an early morning, a woman brushing the street, and a bell ringing in the distance in a scene found early in the film. The audio presentation gives the impression of being so effortlessly natural that it provides the ideal compliment to the amazing visuals. A natural, mystical score accompanies every scene. Chapter 4 features a tribal gathering, and the soundstage becomes absolutely immersed in ritualistic chants and calls from a group numbering in the hundreds. Audiences watch as these individuals become one with the beat and the audience listens as the beat becomes one with the individuals. What does it mean? What does it represent? To any viewer unfamiliar with these peoples, the answer remains a mystery. The point of this and every other scene is the experience of discovering something that most could never imagine. The visuals are astounding, but the sound places listeners squarely in the middle of the experience. Baraka is as fulfilling sonically as it is visually, a treat for the ears that features one of the most robust and natural soundtracks yet.
Baraka Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Baraka debuts on Blu-ray with two supplemental features. 'Baraka:' A Closer Look (1080i, 1:16:23) is the first. This extensive documentary examines the origins of the production and the inspirations of the filmmakers, looking at the decision to create a nonverbal film and the advantages and challenges of such an endeavor. The creation of the film Chronos is discussed, including its influence on Baraka, the experiences and technologies the filmmakers brought from that film to this, and the development of newer and better cameras for the film is also examined. Shooting techniques, schedules, cost and time restraints, the process of recording sound, travel to Kuwait to capture the aftermath of the Gulf War, various filmmaking pitfalls, and the film's theatrical release, among other areas of interest, are brought to the attention of the viewer. The subject matter of Baraka is heavily discussed as well. Running almost as long as the film itself, this feature is a revelation into the filmmaking process of Baraka and is a must-watch for fans and budding filmmakers. Restoration (1080i, 7:04) is a short but fascinating feature that closely examines the restoration of the film, the awe-inspiring experience of viewing the film as it was meant to be seen, and the process utilized to most closely replicate that experience at home.
Baraka Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Baraka features no special effects, no make-up, no trickery. It is the world, that which can be seen out the window and far beyond, stretching to limits that seem impossibly large but continue to shrink with time, with technology, with films like Baraka. Baraka simply is. It is life. It is nature. It is joy. It is sadness. It is you. It is me. It is whatever the imagination believes it to be. Indeed, it is the world, an ever-changing canvas upon which is painted scenes of great pleasure and utmost pain, of the most striking beauty and the most vile ugliness, and of the natural and the manmade. The film, like any fine work of art, takes on a differing meaning for each viewer as it has assigned to it personal interpretations of the presentation of its imagery, its unspoken narrative, and its scale and scope. Nevertheless, there is one universal truth assigned to Baraka, and that is the film's striking reproduction of its subjects, through them creating visuals that take the breath away and leave audiences believing that, for 90 minutes, they were the world's foremost adventurers, philosophers, historians, or naturalists. This amazing and visionary look at the world arrives on Blu-ray with a picture so pure, so deep, so natural that it seems to have been made with the format in mind. It is nothing short of a tribute to the filmmakers, their audience, and most importantly, their subjects. This is Blu-ray at its current peak. There may be nothing better than Baraka, visually, available to the public today. Likewise, the lossless soundtrack is almost as remarkable. It completes the experience, revealing every sound, natural and musical, with pinpoint precision. Finally, the disc provides two key supplements that increase the enjoyment, understanding, and appreciation of the Baraka experience several-fold. Baraka is a must-own disc, not only for demonstration purposes, but for the wonderful construct of the film and its inspiring imagery and sound. No collection, small or large, is complete without a copy. Baraka receives my highest recommendation.
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Baraka Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Baraka Selected for Blu-Ribbon Showcase - December 5, 2008
MPI Home Video has announced that their critically acclaimed Blu-ray release of 'Baraka' has been selected for the Blu-Ribbon Showcase at Blu-Con 1.0, a one-day conference advancing the creation, production and distribution of Blu-ray Disc. Christopher Reyna, the ...
• Today on Blu-ray - October 28th - October 28, 2008
By now, if you aren't familiar with what 'Baraka' is all about, you're at least familiar with how well its Blu-ray release has been reviewed. When Roger Ebert, one of the most widely-known and respected movie reviewers of all time, calls it the "reason to acquire ...
• Ebert: Baraka the "reason to acquire a Blu-ray player" - October 16, 2008
Film Critic Roger Ebert recently reviewed a copy of the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'Baraka', which is due to hit store shelves on October 28th. Calling it "the finest video disc I have ever viewed or ever imagined," the famous critic concluded that "Baraka by ...
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