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Samsara (Blu-ray Review)

8 Jan, 2013 By: John Latchem

Street 1/8/13
Box Office $2.61 million
$27.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some disturbing and sexual images.

Samsara is a Sanskrit word literally meaning “continuous flow.” The text on the back of the case describes the film thusly: “an unparalleled sensory experience” to “illuminate the links between humanity and the rest of nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, Samsara is a guided meditation on the current of interconnection that runs through all our lives.”

There is no dialogue or subtitles, just 102 minutes of beautiful imagery set to music. The filmmakers, who previously produced the similarly themed Baraka, spent four years in 25 countries capturing scenes on 70mm film, which was transferred to HD using 8K resolution, creating a pristine digital image.

The only extra is a 49-minute behind-the-scenes documentary that discusses, among other things, how the flow of birth, death and rebirth is interrupted by technology.

There’s a definite stream of consciousness in the way images flow into each other. Some are routine landscapes. Some are mundane. Some are graphic. Every viewer will likely take something different away from the experience, when the filmmakers’ messages aren’t being overt.

For example, one sequence highlights chickens and pigs being processed at a slaughterhouse, then cuts to images of a supermarket, and then obese people eating fast food, followed by a scene of someone getting plastic surgery, which leads to images of sex dolls being mass produced, and then shots of strippers. A culture of mass-produced hedonism captured in five minutes of film.

A key image seems to be of Buddhist monks creating intricately designed sand paintings with beautiful patterns, only for the brightly colored sand to be smeared together by the end.

This is a beautiful film to look at, but I wish there was some sort of on-screen guide or commentary that explains exactly what the images are.

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