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Released 31 August 2012
Director Ron Fricke
Writer(s) Ron Fricke, Mark Magidson
Producer(s) Mark Magidson
Origin United States
Running Time 102 minutes
Genre Documentary
Rating 12A

The meaning of life?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, it would take a novel length review to accurately describe the meditative beauty of Samsara.

An entirely wordless documentary, Samsara was filmed over a five year period in twenty-five different countries by filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson. Without narration or text to guide the viewer, the film’s journey around the world – through sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders – is carried entirely by the imagery alone, leaving the viewer to deduce a meaning for themselves.

Samsara was shot entirely with specially designed 70mm cameras (most films are shot on 35mm film) which gives the picture a breath-taking vastness, but with crystal clear definition. When shown in 4k resolution digital projection on the three storey tall ISENSE screen in the Odeon cinema in the Point Village, the experience of Samsara is absolutely jaw-dropping.

Like the pair’s previous film Baraka, Samsara is an incredible feat of cinematography. Almost every shot of the film could be taken as a still photograph and placed within the pages of National Geographic.

While there is nearly unlimited scope for interpretation, certain recurring themes do emerge. The word “Samsara” is Sanskrit and roughly translates as “the ever turning wheel of life”, and at the heart of the film is an attempt to capture the nature of life on earth itself. From slow meditative close-ups – office workers, dancers, tribal warriors and priests; to vast crowds – armies marching, prisoners exercising, pilgrims in a holy land; and from bleak, empty landscape shots to time-lapse photography of machine-like workers on a factory assembly line, Samsara offers glimpses into thousands of separate and totally different lives. There is a constant mirroring relationship drawn between east and west, the developing world and the developed world, the rich and the poor.

The stunning visions of Samsara are impossible to adequately describe in words, and of course this is the point. The film is itself a pilgrimage across this strange little planet called earth, and any interpretation as to the true meaning of the journey falls to the viewer. Seeing this film is to see your life in a new way, to see hellish and wondrous sights you never imagined existed, and to come away with more questions than clarity.

- Bernard O’Rourke