Samsara

This movie is a wordless string of impressionistic images set to a score, like Koyaanisqatsi or Baraka. Some part of me wants to like these movies, which tend to be beautiful to look at and which are often quite compelling in their own way, but I can never really commit to them.

For me they get stuck in a damned-if-they-do-damned-if-they-don’t dilemma. If the film is blunt about it’s themes and really lays out how these images connect to each other then it becomes too on the nose. If the film is more oblique it becomes oddly stressful: I sit there and wonder if I’m getting it or if I missed it or if there is anything there at all. It becomes a puzzle I have to solve and the fixation on trying to unlock it’s mysteries distracts me from the surface level pleasures of the movie, which come just from looking at it. Either way, I don’t quite get transported to the lyrical place that I should.

I think at the halfway point of this movie I grasped the themes this was going for and after that the road felt less rocky to me. The first half of the movie, however, was disjointed because it presented it’s information without enough context for me to understand the connections it was drawing. It was clearly taking place all over the globe, but sometimes I knew where they were and sometimes I didn’t; I didn’t always see the throughline between these different peoples and their different customs because I didn’t always know what I was looking at.

If you are a fan of beautiful photography and don’t mind the abstract nature of a film like this then there is much about it that you might like. But as it was neither the most beautiful nor the most powerful of it’s kind that I’ve seen I don’t know that I would recommend it casually.

Winner: The Cat

Samsara on IMDB