Or, the world in 70mm. There are no words in Samsara, presumably to avoid distracting from the moving images onscreen and the way the camera moves to reveal them. And the lack of narrative gives the viewer a psychic space in which to bang up against the images. Watching sped-up sunlight move across an ancient statue’s cracked stone face, I found it difficult to think of anything but the now-dead hands that had carved it. And that may be just as director Ron Fricke would have it — birth, life, death, and the cyclic nature of same are very much the point here. The loving depiction of our enduring creations (be they monuments, ceremonies, or simply spectacles) serves only to highlight our personal ephemerality. There is some trace of the sense that individual life and the way it is lived matters — Fricke lingers on images of African mothers with their children, and also African child soldiers toting assault rifles – but most often, his depictions of the mundane involve either ugliness (gluttonous eaters, desperate trash-pickers) or horror (the mechanized brutality of a slaughterhouse). A thinky film, but gorgeous enough to qualify as a sensual film, too. 2011.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.

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