Cinema is probably my favorite art form. One day, when entertainment takes on a new form of brain melding adventure quests, film will exist in our museums as a testament to their ability to transport us into other realities and help us sympathize with worlds we could never explore in all our time on earth.
The film arts are as diverse in subject matter as they are in artistic merit and general level of “goodness”. Just like not every painting is art, just so not every film can be called a “work of art”. I mean this in the nicest possible way of course, I love terrible art as much as the next person (likely more actually), but I can not deign to call it true art. I began writing this post as we started watching the Netflix gem music-mentory Samsara, from Director/Editor/(super awesome) Cinematographer Ron Fricke, and was immediately struck with it’s power to speak without words, portray without pretension, or shy away from difficult realities. This movie is art, let me live-blog it for you.
Samsara: begins where humans and the earth began. Showing modern day tribes from around the world, still dancing, making sand art, and dressing from elements of their natural habitat, we see the world as it is today from a perspective no one watching this movie could truly appreciate. A true portrait of our entire planet, we start with views of societies who still live as humans have for thousands of years.
We move swiftly on to the industrial world and all it’s uniform glory. From criss-crossing highways to endless towers, from man-made millionaire “everyone gets a beach front property” islands. We’re shown the industrial hell that exists throughout our modern world, from nameless identical factory workers of all trades, to the methodical and brutal chicken/cow/port factory farms of the industrial world.
We are a world consumed by consumerism. Costco is where our kids grow up and are nourished. The McDonalds of the world are where our populace is fattened, only to be shown immediately “fixed” via modern medicine. Flesh dolls show the carnal variety of our consumerist culture. Samsara is continually and silently commenting on all our similarities. We are all in the end just humans, who need to eat, live, fuck. “It’s such an accurate mirror to humanity”, someone said in the room as we fed our eyes on this feast of a movie.
Breaking the documentary style of the movie for a brief second, office workers are grotesquely mocked through pantomime. It’s an intense look at the lack of passion/humanity that exists amidst corporate cubicles. The director then uses eye contact in it’s purest form – windows into the souls of geishas, poverty, criminals. Even in prison, there will always be the better group of select chosen dancers, who get to do the hardest moves. “It’s amazing to think this isn’t a scene from a novel, this is real life”, my friend comments while we watch orange clad prisoners dance to pop music. As a dancer, I can only hope they all enjoy dancing.
Elaborate deck gardens are contrasted to trash dump markets, where the poor flock to comb through and scrape away what sustenance they can. Samsara is not interested in telling us where or what we’re seeing, which as someone who enjoys learning, is mildly blue-balled over. Yet, it is not in disclosing endless factoids from across the globe that is the focus of this painting of humanity. Someone had to make that airplane coffin for a child, or the gun coffin for an adult. There is a story there. We can only imagine what it would be. Left to draw our own conclusions based solely on observation, and any pre-existing possible bias, we create parallels between elaborate coffins, the gun manufacting workers, and different portraits of gun holders from war torn Africa to white suburban “Mr. owns too many guns” dude.
There’s true beauty in the frightening symmetry and seemingly endless repetition of our human world.
Not far from the Pyramids, a squalor city stands with endless block apartments. Mecca’s immense march of white robes. And now we’re back to the Tibetan monks, who dutifully destroy their sand portrait. Hindu dancers choreographically sum up our journey through lands of endless existence, hands drawn on their hands, as the face we were greeted in the very beginning closes her eyes. Endless sand dunes sweep up off into our thoughts as the credits roll.