After a break of nearly 20 years, Baraka director-cinematographer Ron Fricke returns with another non-verbal, globetrotting exercise in guided meditation. As in their previous collaboration, Fricke and editor-producer Mark Magidson stifle straightforward readings, constantly expanding the meaning of their astonishing imagery through associative editing. If you make the mistake of viewing Samsara as a nature documentary, you are likely to arrive at a crudely literal interpretation, one that misses the filmmakers’ more evocative intentions. For example, the images of Katrina-related destruction clearly evoke a dystopian future, one that is addressed throughout the film in the form of not-quite-human robots and other unsettling technological shifts.
More than Baraka, Samsara is preoccupied with what’s to come, finding parallels between technology, the environment, and the human condition. The film powerfully warns of our complacency and the ephemeral nature of all that seems dominant and vitally important—including humanity itself.
Shot in 70mm and scanned at 8K resolution, Samsara is a stunning sensorial experience that feels largely undiminished on Blu-ray. If you get close to your TV during helicopter shots over cities and villages, you can make out details of ant-sized humans in the streets below. This high resolution combined with the aesthetic sophistication of Fricke’s filmmaking makes this disc one of the most impressive HD offerings currently available on home video. In addition to trailers, this disc features a 6-part, 49-minute documentary that explores all aspects of the production in enlightening detail.