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Visit biografmuseet.dk about Danish cinemas

 

"Samsara" an outline of the project

This article first appeared in
..in 70mm
The 70mm Newsletter

Written by: Ron Fricke Issue 39 - June 1995

1. PROLOGUE: CREATION

 
This section opens in ambiguous space. The perspective shrinks and expands unpredictably. We see atoms, molecules, cells, amoebas, volcanos, fire, wind etc. Many of these images are in time-lapse sequences. Out of the dark, we perceive gigantic particles falling in slow motion. As the camera moves back, we realize that they are granules of sand. The camera continues to retreat, revealing a pair of delicate fingertips and then a hand releasing the sand a few particles at a time. We find ourselves looking down on the figure of a monk who is putting the finishing touches on a sand painting mandala. As the camera descends toward the mandala, the sand begins to smear out from the center and blown away. The camera goes through the opening as if stepping through the door. We emerge in the interior of a Kiva with a shaft of light rotating slowly as the sun moves. With each revolution, the light reveals an ancestor spirit of a different "tribe"; one Native American, one Asian, one African and one European. These guides reappear throughout the film.

Further in 70mm reading:

"Samsara" the film
"Samsara" - in Panavision Super 70 / System 65

Ron Fricke

"Baraka" in a Swim Bath
"Baraka" book

Internet link:

 

2. ACT 1: SPIRIT TAKING FORM

 
The spirit or energy behind the camera is seeking form. It journeys through underwater kelp forests, caves, narrow canyons, night skies. There is a sense that we are moving toward something but we don't know what. At the end of this sequence spirit bursts suddenly into form as we allow a baby into the world, preferably an underwater birth. The infant floats weightlessly through the water like a voyager in outer space.
 

3. ACT 2: MATTER, ONE TURN OF THE WHEEL.

 
From an intimate view of one soul, we expand to encompass humanity. The theme music erupts in a joyous chorus of voices as we see babies being born under all circumstances from high-tech to no-tech, all over the world. There are healthy babies, premies, still births. We follow the cycle of life from birth to death focusing on four people, modern representatives of ancestor spirits, and experiences the diversity of their rituals and routines. Many of these shots are 24 frame and slow motion. At the end of the life cycle we see people of all ages nearing death from many different causes. We follow the last moments of an AIDS patient and the camera spirals up from his dead body like a spirit taking leave from the flesh.
 

4. ACT 3: SAMSARA, THE WHEEL OF LIFE

 
We are on the journey of the Spirit after death. The emphasis here is on the impermanence of the material world. We see abandoned landscapes. decaying remnants of the technology of death, such as the skeleton of a WWII bomber under the sea, and archaeological ruins. The absurdity of humankind's quest to accumulate possesions and power becomes obvious. Spirit must confront the consequences of its pass through human life and comes to terms with it. There are time-lapse double passes of night to day and day to night that create a sense of the world spinning continually through space. At the end, the cycles accelerate until they appear to be still. We sense the return of the presence (Spirit) from Act 1.
 

5. EPILOGUE: REBIRTH

 
The theme music from Act 2 resurfaces. The film returns to organic imagery as spirit music returns to matter in manifold forms: plants, animals and human. Finally, we are sucked back through the opening in the mandala, which reassembles, sealing the door behind us.
 
 
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Updated 21-01-24