Director Rob Fricke's “Samsara” takes its name from the Sanskrit word for continuous rebirth or renewal, and so his wordless impressionistic documentary consists of images depicting the rhythms and flow patterns of life and death. Throughout the film, showing this weekend at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Fricke often finds brutality and beauty, violence and grace in the same sequences.
Much like Fricke's 1992 film “Baraka,” “Samsara” owes considerable debt to Godfrey Reggio's “Koyaanisqatsi” — it takes a similarly kaleidoscopic view of both the movement of unspoiled nature and the undeniably similar rhythms found in human behavior, destruction, manufacturing and high-speed travel. Fricke seems particularly interested in the fine lines between normalcy and aberration, beauty and grotesquerie, and “Samsara” illustrates the slight, often incremental differences between those states.
All of the scenes are shot using 70 mm cameras and accompanied by a lovely score from Lisa Gerrard, Michael Sterns and Marcello de Francisci — these provide the only real stylistic through-lines as Fricke takes a worldwide view of busy cities, rain forests, monasteries, prisons and factories. As Fricke makes plain, traffic patterns in Los Angeles can be viewed with the same sense of beauty as an Amazonian waterfall, beautiful forms can be found in horrible things, tribalism is a consistent human trait, and systems of order are tenuous.
“Samsara” falters when its images are obviously staged or engineered for shock or narrative value, and Fricke's intensions are not always clear: shots of natural disasters are followed by depictions of aristocratic opulence, but to what end? “Samsara” occasionally seems more interested in finding great images than maintaining its thematic integrity. All of this makes “Samsara” undeniably beautiful but frustrating — it's messaging is not always as clear as its breathtaking vistas.
— George Lang
Featuring the music of: Lisa Gerrard, Michael Sterns and Marcello de Francisci.
(Disturbing and sexual images)
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