Filmed over nearly five years in twenty-five countries on five continents, and shot on seventy-millimetre film, Samsara transports us to the varied worlds of sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial complexes, and natural wonders.
Balinese Tari Legong Dancers,
Ni Made Megahadi Pratiwi,
Puti Sri Candra Dewi
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Without words, cameras show us the world, with an emphasis not on "where," but on "what's there." It begins with morning, natural landscapes and people at prayer: volcanoes, water falls, veldts, and forests; several hundred Balinese Hindu men perform kecak, the monkey chant. Indigenous peoples apply body paint; whole villages dance. The film moves to destruction of nature via logging, blasting, and strip mining. Images of poverty, rapid urban life, and factories give way to war, concentration camps, and mass graves. Ancient ruins come into view, and then a sacred river where pilgrims bathe and funeral pyres burn. Prayer and nature return. A monk rings a huge bell; stars wheel across the sky.Written by
Baraka is an ancient Sufi word, translated as a blessing or as the essence of life from which the evolutionary process unfolds. With the theme of man's diversity and his impact upon the environment, Baraka is a documentary photographed on six continents in 24 countries including Tanzania, China, Brazil, Japan, Nepal, the U.S. and Europe. It has no story and no dialogue, yet transcends geography and language to provide a sensual and spiritual experience that enables the viewer to look at the world in a totally different way.
When the film opens, a lone snow monkey sits in the middle of a hot spring, biding its time. The expression on its face is one of deep reflection and weariness. When it looks up at the stars, then closes its eyes, shutting itself off from its surroundings, I sensed my own inner longing for the infinite.
As the film progresses, we see the edge of a volcano in Hawaii, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Ryoan-Ji temple in Kyoto, Lake Natron in Tanzania, and the fire plains of Kuwait, their oil fires burning after the 1991 Gulf War. Through Fricke's camera, we glimpse various forms of religious expression from the chanting of monks to tribal celebrations in Africa and Brazil.
Baraka is almost like an updated version of Godfrey Reggio's 1983 film, Koyaanisqatsi. Using speeded-up images of hectic big city life with its homelessness and deprivation, interspersed with mountain vistas and forests, it depicts the mechanical nature of modern life as contrasted with the beauty of the natural world.
This film allowed me to see things I never knew existed, and to glimpse patterns of interconnectedness and a sense of balance and proportion in the world I was barely aware of. I was moved to simply look into people's faces and have them look back at me, allowing me to connect with the universality of the human spirit.
Fricke has said that Baraka was intended to be "a journey of rediscovery that plunges into nature, into history, into the human spirit and finally into the realm of the infinite." Unique in its beauty, sensitivity, and perception, Baraka succeeded, in the course of 90 minutes, in moving me from the humdrum of everyday reality to a calmer and more spiritual space
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