Filmmaker Ron Fricke has a heck of a great track record when it comes to unique films like this, so I imagine this is more of the same enthralling, gorgeous imagery that serves as a stay-at-home trip around the world.
Movie Grade: A
DVD Grade: A+
Filmmaker Ron Fricke turned the documentary genre on its head with 1985ís Chronos, a film shot
specifically for the IMAX format. He followed that with 1992ís Baraka, featuring similar, spectacular 70mm
images of various people and places from across the globe that again was lauded for its daring, dialogue-free
technique. 20 years later, Fricke and his long-time collaborator, producer Mark Magidson are at it again, with
2011ís Samsara. Fortunately, nothing has changed, stylistically, but this time Fricke presents his sensational, often-
haunting images in a way that seems to tell even more of a story than before, yet still remaining without a single line
of dialogue. MPIís reference-quality Blu-ray disc gives us Samsara in a way that could only have been bested by
being there for each and every incredible shot that Fricke captured on that magical camera of his.
The film kicks right off with one of the creepiest dance sequences Iíve ever seen. Iím not sure if itís the massive
amount of makeup they have on or not, but at certain angles, the dancers (at least the one in the middle) appear to
be wearing a paper mask. From there we go right to dreary, yet gorgeous footage of a volcano erupting, and the
wonderful contrast in themes is officially underway in Samsara. Itís this constant, instant transition from light to
dark that makes the film so memorable, as any given scene can consist of wonderful images of the best things this
world has to offer, but then Fricke will follow it up with a stark image of a skyscraper that almost appears to be
staring at us in the most threatening of ways.
Following the aforementioned volcano eruption, things remain rather subdued for the next 30 minutes or soÖuntil
ďitĒ happens and weíre treated to one of the most amazing, surreal, insane displays of horror that Iíve seen in quite
some time. The sequence starts off totally harmless as a man in a suit and tie sits calmly at his desk. He then starts
applying what looks like a cosmetic mud mask to his face, and soon his entire face is covered. Iíll leave the rest of
this for you to discover, but good luck focusing on the rest of Samsaraís imagery, as not only will this sequence
haunt you going forward, but youíll spend days actually questioning what it is, exactly, that you witnessed during
this scant few minutes.
The insane video presentation here is enough to shoot Samsara to the top of my list of home theater demo discs.
Itís no surprise that Baraka is the disc itíll be replacing, as Samsara was also shot in 70mm, mastered at 4k, and
presented in 1080p. The clear, exquisitely detailed images simply canít be topped, with bright, vivid colors that
virtually explode off of the screen. Youíre just not going to find such a flawless, beautiful, overall video
presentation like this very often, if at all. The audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that is also reference-
quality and nearly as impressive as the video. Again, thereís no dialogue to blend into the mix, but all that does is
allow us to revel in the wide variety of bombastic world music, which the track broadcasts with a great deal of
depth, wide dynamic range, and an aggressive, immersive bass presence.
The extras include a 49-minute behind-the-scenes piece where director Ron Fricke discusses the filmís vision and
the main thematic difference between Samsara and Baraka. In this piece, we also get a look at the technical
aspects involved in putting such a stunning film together, and making it look so incredible. Thereís also a pair of
trailers for Samsara, one an ďInternet TeaserĒ and the other the filmís ďTheatrical Trailer.Ē