Samsara contains no words, no actors, no narrative.

Shot over the course of five years, visiting twenty five countries sitting on five continents, Baraka director Ron Fricke offers up a visually magnificent documentary to make Attenborough weep, washed down with a big fat dose of perspective.

A stunning, access-all-areas pass to our beautiful, freaky planet, Samsara was given loving treatment by shooting solely on 70mm film. Every single shot is a feast or curse for the eyes, whether wandering through Arizona’s Antelope Canyon or staring a slaughterhouse factory line in the face. Omitting Attenborough-like voice over, Samsara leaves the audience to attach their own commentary to the images, assisted only by a hypnotizing score. It’s the first film Fricke has released since the similarly epic Baraka (1992) and Koyaanisqatsi (1982), which followed the same non-linear, narratorless format. Fricke subverts expectation of documentary style, cutting the fat and leaving only the raw meat of his subject matter exposed (sometimes literally).

In Samsara, Fricke employs his signature style to attach an old, sacred concept to the modern world. ‘Samsara’ is an ancient Sanskrit word used to describe a cyclical process of life, death and rebirth; humanity stuck in a vicious cycle of reincarnation. Fricke presents his personal view of ‘samsara’ on a global scale, handpicked moments of new life and decay, splicing shots of newborn baptisms with the ravages of the New Orleans floods.

Among sprawling time lapses of unbelievable places you’ll absolutely never get to visit, Fricke puts both mind-blowing environments and the messed-up nature of human consumption under his 70mm microscope, occasionally pausing for brief moments of human connection. Lingering close ups bring us face to face with fellow humans we might not always encounter, unless you’re tight with the CPDRC Dancing Inmates of the Philippines’ Cebu Province or the Thai Ladyboys of Cascade Bar.

Samsara gently nudges us to take a huge gulp of perspective and appreciate the fragility of our bro Planet Earth.

*** out of five stars


Samsara is out now on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital download

Tell Us What You Think