There are two little known movies I saw in the recent past: Baraka (1992) and what I consider it’s updated version as opposed to a sequel, Samsara (2011). I didn’t think I was skilled enough to describe the experience of Baraka and Samsara. Unable to write down any words at all, I looked up what Roger Ebert had to say about them. I was not disappointed. These are kind of movies that deserve a writer like Ebert.
In the 1970s, “Samsara” would have been known as a head trip. The critic Matt Zoller Seitz calls it “a trance movie.” For Fricke and his producer and collaborator Mark Magidson, it is a continuation of the meditative imagery they used in “Baraka” (1992), which intensely regarded the strangeness and wonder of our planet. Both films draw a sharp contract between the awe of nature and the sometimes ruthless imposition of man’s will. I learn from Wikipedia that “samsara,” literally meaning “continuous flow,” is “the repeating cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth” within such Indian religions as Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. “Baraka” can refer to God’s blessing.
I met Fricke and Magidson when a restored version of “Baraka” was shown at Ebertfest, and had the impression that traveling the world and recording these images was sort of their calling. Some of these places, structures, peoples and practices will not endure forever, and if this planet someday becomes barren and lifeless, these films could show visitors what was here.
How many movies can you describe as meditative?
This experience deserves to be replicated every few decades. It is my sincere wish that the makers never end this journey.
The one tiny suggestion I’d make is to watch Baraka and Samsara in the highest quality that is affordable to you.