Dec 072012


A visual meditation on the cycle of life – birth, rebirth and death. Samsara is a spectacular and thought-provoking documentary, which could be the perfect antidote to the excessive consumerism that can occur holiday period. Review of Samsara after the jump.

In their follow-up to the critically acclaimed non-narrative documentary, Baraka, film-makers Ron Ficke and Mark Magidson have again taken the audience on an inspiring, moving and sometimes confronting trip around the world, which looks at the cycle of life through the visual media. There is no dialogue in this film and there is no narrative – the powerful images along with the original music (composed by Micahel Steams, Lisa Gerrad & Marcello De Francisi) alone guide the audience through this meditative experience.

The film-makers took 5 years to make Samsara, travelling to 25 countries and filming in some of the world’s most inaccessible and unknown locations. It took over 1 and a half years to edit the film together, after which the score was composed and added. They chose to make Samsara  a film with no dialogue (as they did also with Baraka) as they did not want languages and nationalities to be a barrier to the deep connection we can feel to each other and life outside of our own culture.


I found watching the film to be a very thought-provoking experience, and it caused me to seriously contemplate the nature of life as well questioning some of the practices which have become the norm in consumer-driven societies. Mass production of guns and bullets, endless highways, people digging through never-ending piles of garbage, food processing factories – all powerful images of excess.

I found the sequences showing chickens in a food-processing plant to be extremely distressing. Seeing the animal’s entire life cycle occurring within one factory was powerful, and really reinforced to me that I should make the effort to eat only free-range chicken and eggs. Is this what the film-makers wanted me to feel? I’m not entirely sure. They state there is no political agenda in the film; although I think at times the choice they made to have certain sequences appear one-after-each other may suggest otherwise.

Along with the somewhat confronting images as described above, there was an equal amount of beautiful and awe-inspiring scenes. Buddhist monks painstakingly creating a motif with chalk, endless deserts that look like oceans of sand, hundreds of people performing martial arts in unison, and many other beautiful things that the average person never gets to see. Samsara was filled to the brim with stunning scenes that celebrate the Earth and the unique living things which inhabit it.

Samsara is a film that everyone will experience differently depending on their ideals, beliefs and place in life. It is a thought-provoking experience, and it may be the perfect film to watch after excess of the Christmas period has subsided.

By Sam McCosh
The Facts

Director: Ron Fricke
Writer(s): Ron Fricke & Mark Magidson (concept and treatment)
Runtime: 99 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: December 26 2012; USA: August 24 2012 (limited); NZ: No date set