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Sean Montgomery

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Samsara [Oct. 6th, 2012|02:02 am]
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Tonight, I finally got to see 'Samsara', a year after I struck out getting a ticket to its' world premiere at the TIFF, and 5 1/2 years after I first heard that it was being made. Samsara is from the same team that made 'Baraka', which is one of my favourite movies - a work that I can (and do) watch every year. I watched it for the first time at the Princess Court theatre in Kingston back in 1992, and it really blew me away. It hit me right as I was on the verge of adulthood - thinking about my future, my place in the world, what I wanted to do with myself. And Baraka's imagery of people from around the world, all involved in the same basic day-to-day struggles spoke to me. Some people feel it necessary to hit the road after high school and 'find themselves' out there somewhere. But Baraka reminded me that life is transitory and all of our efforts ultimately come to nothing....it is traditions, passions, and personal connections that give life meaning while we're here - and those things are usually to be found where you already live.

Anyway, I was really looking forward to Samsara. And I wasn't disappointed...it was very much a sequel to Baraka. Perhaps too much so, though. It relied on a lot of the same imagery (impoverished people scavenging through trash, sped up footage of factory workers and subway commuters, religious temples, serious looking aboriginal people). My friend epi_lj made an interesting observation: 20 years after Baraka came out, beautiful High-Def imagery of the world is now ubiquitous. It's there 24/7 on TV stations like Oasis, and on BBC natural world series. While Samsara's director Ron Fricke has a fabulous eye for subject matter and composition, the decision to turn that eye on familiar things meant that this film didn't have the same 'wow' factor that Baraka did. There were a few places that hadn't been covered in Baraka, but even here they were things I'd seen before (the sulfur miners from 'Human Planet', the Chinese factory from 'Manufactured Landscapes', the prison dancers from YouTube...) I suppose I was hoping to see more 'new' things, or see them in a new context. Compared to Baraka, there was a greater emphasis on waste and decay, and less on joy and celebration...so as a result the overall mood was more somber. The music was pretty good too...although even that contributed to the 'been here before' vibe - with the same composer doing the main themes, and Lisa Gerrard contributing appropriately mournful vocal parts. Don't get me wrong - it was beautiful and well worth seeing (and I look forward to having the Blu-ray so I can revisit certain passages in it again)....I just didn't feel as much surprise and awe that I'd hoped to. I suppose I'm just too damn jaded, and that's the stage of life where this film found me.
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[User Picture]From: theoddbirdrant
2012-10-06 11:25 pm (UTC)

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I enjoyed Baraka too so I am really looking forward to seeing Samsara!
[User Picture]From: epi_lj
2012-10-07 12:56 am (UTC)

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I'm not sure that I found that it focused more on decay per se. I think the message was about the transitory nature of things, which is why it began with the dunes and then the creation of the sand mandala -- creating order and complexity out of sand -- and wrapped up with the wiping away of the sand mandala and back to the dune. I got the impression that it was about both our construction and its inevitable end. Maybe that's a super sombre message for some: "None of this will last," but to me, I dunno. It doesn't strike me the same way. If anything, I see some hope in the idea that everything we do is temporary -- perhaps we haven't ruined the planet after all, and a couple of hundred thousand years from now we'll be just a fading memory.

I also thought it was amazing to see the Burj Dubai in context. I always see it on its own, or renderings of it (and just it). I think you get a better sense of just how incredibly tall it is when you see the buildings around it, realizing that they themselves must be very tall.