DIRECTED BY RON FRICKE
Shot over four and a half years in 25 countries, and drawing its title from a Sanskrit word signifying an endless cycle of life, death, and re-birth, Ron Fricke’s Samsara is cinema at its most awe inspiring. The followup to 1992′s breathtaking Baraka, Fricke and returning collaborator Mark Magidson surpass even that meditative marvel with an effort that can only be aptly described in superlatives—and with what sounds like hyperbole, but isn’t.
Like Fricke’s Baraka and Godfrey Reggio’s Qatsi trilogy before it, Samasra is something akin to a human-centric, arthouse version of Planet Earth. It surveys the globe in a series of astonishing, dialogue-free, 70mm vistas, underscored by a mixture of instrumental and choral music from composers Michael Stearns, Lisa Gerrard, and Marcello de Francisci.
In addition to incredible footage from remote regions and communities, Fricke’s mastery of time-lapse imagery invests even relatively familiar sights—a helicopter shot of an L.A. freeway, for example—with organic, utterly entrancing rhythms. That Samsara is instantly one of the most visually arresting experiences ever committed to celluloid is reason enough to laud it, but Fricke and co-editor Magidson also achieve some fascinating, affecting juxtapositions.
It may sound absurd, but it’s true: In 99 minutes, Samsara draws something approaching a comprehensive portrait of the totality of human experience. If you’re even remotely fond of being alive, it’s not to be missed.