Excerpt: In the opening sequence of Ron Fricke's Samsara , we watch a performance by three young dancers. At the end of their dance, Fricke closes in on one of their faces, and holds the shot, and holds it longer, in a tight close-up. It's a fascinating little moment, a conscious effort to make us, as audience members, hyper-aware of the act of really looking at something.
Excerpt: Director/cinematographer Ron Fricke follows his 1992 visual excursion/high-end stoner classic Baraka with the narrative-free, lush 70mm Samsara , another documentary that travels the world in search of glorious imagery, guided by and structured around a vague spirituality. Named for the Eastern religious term for the cycle of birth, death, and reincarnation, Samsara is lightly bookended by Buddhist monks painstakingly making and later destroying a sand mandala.
Summary: Samsara ’s moments of rapture sneak up unexpectedly. At first it feels a bit like a slideshow of elaborate screensavers with no narrative or obvious ordering of images to latch on to. But once the meditative flow of phenomenal photography takes hold, the virtuosity of the film emerges.