First off, Samsara looks brilliant. Visually striking from the off the decision to shoot in 70mm film was thoroughly worthwhile. Seldom used in feature length films the potential for detail and frankly superb picture was far from wasted.
Initially it looked as if creators Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson had set out to find a selection of beautiful places, people and objects and collect them all together for 99 minutes of wonder – at images most people will never get to see in real life. Just as it began to feel like Samsara would be best played out as an incredibly pretty short film it shifted into a documentary of contrasts.
Filmed over five years in 25 countries and across 5 continents it lays natural disasters, wonders of nature and works of man alongside human situations, some of which are instantly recognisable whilst others are distinctly unusual and all before you in HD.
What it doesn’t do is explain a single thing to you. Nice when it comes to forming your own opinion on an image but a nightmare for curiosity. As it is a wordless documentary there is the distinct possibility that constant explanation would go against everything it tries to do. Even so, not having access to the what, whys and even the where of some things is a tad frustrating.
What it does do is give the viewer access to beautiful locations then provides contrast using slums and cityscapes. Allows you a look into the peace and simplicity of life in a monastery and then into large, impersonal intensive animal farms. Takes a moment to study the quiet innocence of a father and child then on to what looks like a factory for custom made sex dolls, and so on.
Samsara raises a lot of questions and leaves you to work out the answers for yourself.