It is truly an endeavor, truly a feat, to create a film without a human storyline, without dialogue, without subtitles, that has the ability to hold the attention of a sober audience. Though I cannot speak absolutely to the amount of leafy intoxicants consumed by attendees in anticipation of the "trippiness" of this film, I can say that Samsara was extremely engaging for at least one un-inebriated audience member.
Producer Mark Magidson defines Samsara as meaning "birth, death and rebirth." It is a ninety-nine minute long journey through global incarnations of life, death, creation and destruction. The film follows in the line of preceding film meditations, Baraka and Chronos, but sets itself apart in its message by being "harder hitting," according to Magidson. Samsara was actually filmed over three years, but was the product of almost five years of work.
Artful cinematography married with entrancing music deliver the images and unifying message of the cyclical nature of life.At its best moments, Samsara is awe-inspiring, producing otherworldly visuals that transport viewers to real places on Earth, in time, that are deeply beautiful, haunting, and strange.
Samsara, conversely to Baraka, displays many saddening images from our own society. From factory farms to obese McDonalds consumers in time lapse, the film amplifies silent aspects of America's unconscious life. Many audience members vacated during the mass cow slaughtering, and industrial chicken gathering scenes, either wounded from harshed-mellows or hopefully, filled with outrage- running to protest.
Samsara also highlights American manufacturing in China, an enormous part of society that is largely hidden and ignored. With these scenes, Samsara makes its message clear, which is a refreshing departure from the junk-food, "feel-good", escapist movies our society has become so fond of.
One should begin watching Samsara with an utterly open mind, free of expectation (not even of a pleasant Planet Earth or National Geographic experience). Those who possess short attention spans or are addicted to fast-paced action flicks may feel like they have experienced death-by-boredom by the film's end. But, those who dedicate themselves to the experience, to reset their attention speed to the film, to languish in the stillness of the film, to study the faces and scenes of Samsara, will find themselves in calm spaces of quiet contemplation, and will surely receive some truly broadening, beautiful, mind boggling education.
Note: A few words of advice, do not plan for a night of lively activity (dancing, drinking, jogging, jazzercise etc.) after watching Samsara. Do arrange for a warm, plush bed to be in the immediate vicinity of your Samsara viewing space. The film is that relaxing, in the best possible sense.