REVIEW: 'Samsara'

REVIEW: 'Samsara'

REVIEW: 'Samsara', Flicks.co.nz

4 stars

This visual, musical, non-narrative documentary draws from sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial complexes and nature to examine aspects of the human experience, from the mundane to the miraculous. From the director of Baraka. Now playing nationwide.


Samsara’s moments of rapture sneak up unexpectedly. At first it feels a bit like a slideshow of elaborate screensavers with no narrative or obvious ordering of images to latch on to. But once the meditative flow of phenomenal photography takes hold, the virtuosity of the film emerges.

Each beautifully composed shot prods us to contemplate the diverse modern world we live in, whether it’s a close up of a painted Ethiopian face, sands sweeping a desert dune or the unintentional dance of factory workers reporting for work in China. The environment, religion, global industry, modernity vs tradition, family – all the big themes are in there somewhere but intentionally kept oblique. The filmmakers spent five years trekking to 25 countries and have not even bothered to put up subtitles of the locations.

By dismissing the details, Samsara displays extraordinary scenes rarely seen on the big screen without political commentary. The rhythm of worshippers at Mecca is mesmerising and yet the systematic process of a Chinese chicken slaughterhouse is oddly equally fascinating. Shots of Tibetan monks tapping coloured dust onto a sand painting have Hitchcockian suspense. A gloriously expansive, moving and transcendent cinema experience.

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