Five years. 25 countries. 96 minutes. Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson, creators of 'Baraka', have once again joined forces to create their latest cinematic tour de force, 'Samsara'.
If you've seen 'Baraka', you'll know what you're in for. Stunning images, vehement music, no narration, no dialog. 'Samsara' is actually a Sanskrit word, meaning "the ever-turning wheel of life", and the film takes us through the gamut of human existence.
Every frame of this film is precisely and skillfully composed, with an emphasis on capturing the most stunning images imaginable. At times, it's difficult to believe the pictures you're presented with are authentic - some are so alien and surreal they appear to be computer generated or manipulated - but they're not. There's time lapse photography that captures entire days, all whilst tracking around wind-weathered artefacts or trees that appear from the earth like skeletal hands. Then there's the portraits - shots of faces of tribesmen, dancers, workers - staring right at you. Their eyes are piercing; it's like they're right there in the room with you, and you're both studying the other.
There's a great deal of conflict to be found within the journey of 'Samsara'. While we're initially taken to some of the most stunning and remote locations on the planet, including the Thiksey Monastery in India and Himba village in Namibia, things become much more bleak when the attention turns toward the human race. As in 'Baraka', there's a look into some of the cruelty towards animals who will eventually be consumed. There's also a large emphasis on mass-production and consumerism - we see both the construction of products in immense Chinese factories, as well as their final destination, piled junk discarded and unwanted.
They have also captured some truly fascinating moments in time - the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina seems almost artificial in its brutality, and the parade for the sixtieth anniversary of the Communist Party in China reveals an almost endless stream of military personnel.
The 70mm film is vivid, saturated and sharp.
This film, like a meagre handful In the past few decades, has been shot on 70mm film. The final result is a picture that's vivid, saturated and sharp. To even begin the complexities of hauling that kit to 25 countries, some locations the most desolate in the world, is truly mind-boggling.
For all of its beauty and its poignancy, 'Samsara' is hurt most by what it's trying not to be - a Hollywood film. This is the kind of movie you have to be in the right mood to sit down and watch, and when you do, it's pleasantly rewarding. However, if you're after something mindless, entertaining or useful as background noise, this isn't going to be your first choice. 'Samsara', moreso than 'Baraka', is the kind of film that holds a mirror up to society to take note of itself - it requires you to think and form judgements of your own. As such, this film will not be for everyone, nor every occasion, but is well worth a look purely for its immensity.