There was something completely different at the Robert Burns Centre film Theatre Film Club on Monday evening, in fact something very different. Mike Gray introduced a film that was completely devoid of narrative commentary, had no script and was chronicled only through images and music. Samsara (2011) is directed by Ron Fricke, who was responsible for a similar film Baraka (1992) had editorial and cinematographer duties on Koyaanisqatsi (1992) and 1998’s Powaqqatsi and invented, developed and built the 70mm film time-lapse cameras that played a key role in all these four films.
Filmed in 25 different countries over best part of a five-years, Samsara is the Buddhist term for the cycle of life, death and rebirth and a film in which music plays a very important part. ‘It’s neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue it takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation. Through powerful images, the film illuminates the links between humanity and the rest of nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the plant’. Mike finished his very informative introduction by inviting the RBC audience to sit back and let the images and the music just flow.
The discussion that followed the film was probable the most animated to take place this season with many differing views of what had been illustrated. Although not in total agreement the audience seemed to appreciate various different parts of the film. From my own prospective the first half hour was like watching paint dry, but once people and cityscapes become more involved the more interesting the experience became. The random images had no real narrative structure some of which I found disturbing, the imagery of a young child in a coffin for one and the eccentricity of the Frenchman sitting at a desk in a business suit who covers his head in clay and transforms it to represent a terrifying “joker’ mask, images, like some of the facial close-ups, I found intrusive. The film highlighted the mess that the capitalist world are making of the planet where people who live outside of reality seem to care more about the treatment of chickens than children, by reality I mean to desperate need to feed the world that forces us to use forms of factory farming against the ever depleting and costly food stocks and if we do not, millions will die. Where it’s wrong to build a wall in Berlin but not by the Israelis to imprison Palestinians! The most startling of Frick’s illustrations was the patterns created by regimented people, the marching troops and tanks in what looked like North Korea, people at work in massive factory’s and the millions milling around Mecca.
A film you may not instantly fall in love with but one you certainly can’t ignore, one in which you conjure up your own emotion and a film that proves that there’s beauty in the most inhuman acts even when the film highlights the atrocious living conditions imposed on the most disfranchised of human lives.