Last Friday I went to see Samsara, a film by the creators of Baraka which you might have heard of. Our real, human world looks more amazing and unusual that the virtual world of Second Life sometimes.
I loved this film. It was about an hour and half and seemed longer, in a good way. There’s no narrative with the original music and shows stunning images from all over the globe. It was shot with 65mm film according to the actual movie; the website says 70mm. Shot in twenty five countries over a period of five years, it screened at Sundance last year and is in select theaters now. I saw it in a small art house theater; it must be even more awesome on a bigger screen.
There were unusual things I found beautiful, things I was surprised that I wasn’t disturbed by and I had to examine my feelings about quite a lot of it. It isn’t judgmental and while everything looks artistic it isn’t all pretty.
The natural world shown is beautiful, of course. Some of the areas of civilization that have been affected by natural disasters some time ago and have not been reclaimed are eerily beautiful, interiors frozen in time. I was particularly moved by an old house that was partially filled with silt and sand.
There are people in the film, often staring right at the camera for a long time, mostly unblinking and unsmiling. I don’t know how the creators were allowed to film some of what is shown. There are amazing shots of ancient, sacred places with modern buildings having satellite dishes nearby. There are shots of crowded, poverty stricken areas with luxury high rise condos next to them, pools on each balcony.
Many of the beginning scenes have a timeless feel and then there are more images of modern humanity rushing about in a very patterned and creative way, all set to music that is kind of hypnotic. I noticed that I wasn’t feeling too awful about that but the people were beginning to seem….less human. The life-like Asian robots were a little creepy and I began to be on guard somewhat. Then came the scenes in modern factories, food production in poultry, dairy and other meat plants, all looking choreographed and set to music.
There ares scenes of workers in what looks to be a sulfur mine, ladyboys in Thailand and poor, young children sorting through mountains and mountains of disgusting trash, all non-narrated and with the wonderful, original music. Responsibility and awareness regarding interpretation seem to be required of the viewer, which I like.
One of the most amazing scenes to me was a huge group of prison inmates doing a dance routine in the yard. Another was of African villagers that looked as though they’re from another time with traditional huts, all the paint and body modifications yet some are posed with guns–men, women and children.
The military scenes are sobering as are young men on guard duty with clenched fists.
The cinematography is amazing and I was reminded of the wide diversity of expression in this world. Humans seemed to be more fragile and temporary in these settings yet I wasn’t really disturbed or feeling burdened by the time the film was over. A woman near me said that we’re doomed but I didn’t see it that way at all. Likely everyone will have a different perceptions and I can see that this isn’t for everyone. I’m pleased that I got to see this.
A neighbor and I were talking this weekend about the film Cloud Atlas. He made a remark about how intelligent and deep I must be (he didn’t seem to be sarcastic) because I get something other than confusion from these kinds of films. There are many kinds of intelligence and tastes in the world and since I’m trying to not be overly critical of myself I didn’t tell him about how hard it was for me to figure out how to clean the different filters on my new vacuum cleaner.