Samsara (2011)

On the official website of the film Samsara, you can read: “SAMSARA is a Sanskrit word that means ‘the ever turning wheel of life’ and is the point of departure for the filmmakers as they search for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives.”

If you are like me, you will want to enjoy this visual masterpiece without too many preconceived notions. You will want to stop reading here and skip directly to the download link. But of course, you are welcome to read on. I will not reveal too much about the contents.

African warriors in Samsara (2011)

For all intents and purposes, Samsara is a silent film. Sure, it does have a soundtrack, but that soundtrack does nothing more and nothing less than a good soundtrack for a silent film from the 1920s. There is no spoken dialogue or narration, nor any background sounds that I can remember. The soundtrack rests entirely on the music, partly original music composed for the film. Some of the tracks have lyrics, but those lyrics are not directly related to the images, as far as I can tell. For example, there is a Swedish lullaby early on, but none of the images it accompanies seem to be in any way connected with the theme or the words. And yet, the music works extremely well, producing an almost hypnotic sensation.

But the most memorable and powerful aspect of the film is the visual images, filled with vibrant colours. The photography is exquisite, and so is the cutting. The tempo is slow, yet many sudden twists mean that we have time to see images from many different countries and many aspects of both nature and human life. This is a film filled with contrasts. Peacefulness and hostility. Untouched nature and huge cities. Ancient history and modern technology. East and west. Life and death. Religion and … well, I am not sure there is a contrast to religion, but the religious motif is definitely there, and it is very inclusive in the sense that several different religions are represented, and none is shown to be more important than the others.

Samsara is, indeed, a turning wheel of life. If it has a weakness, then it is that it tries to say too much. There is not one message in this film, but many, and perhaps that means it is spread just a little bit too thin, sending its energy into many directions at once. But that is a minor quibble, because who said that good art always has to be propagandistic?

This film is best enjoyed as cinematic poetry. It can be analyzed and interpreted endlessly, but will it enhance the enjoyment of viewing? I doubt it, though meditating about the many wonderful pictures may give you some insight into the world we live in, or even into your own self.

Dancers in Samsara (2011)

Samsara
Download link
Year: 2011
Running time: 1 h 42 min
Directors: Ron Fricke
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Low (720×304)
Sound quality: Excellent
Best file format: Cinepack (1.4 G)

Advertisements

The Corporation (2003)

Pollution. Underpaid workers. Control of the media. Contempt of governments and courts. Patenting of genetic information. Those are only a few of the problems caused by today’s global corporations, corporations that claim to have the same rights (but not always the same responsibilities) as living persons.

This is what The Corporation is about, a Canadian documentary trying to convey the message that corporations have become far too powerful to actually do good for society. It is an extremely well produced documentary. It is clear that it was made by professionals, and also that it must have had a high budget for that kind of film. Many celebrities critical of corporations appear, including Michael Moore, Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky, each with his/her own angle on the subject matter.

"Harm to human beings: Toxic waste" from The Corporation (2003)

Though this is a relevant film with an important message, it is most interesting to me personally for two reasons. One is that it puts the corporation into a historical perspective. In fact, I would have liked to see an entire film devoted to that subject alone, as it is only briefly sketched here. The other reason is that it focuses on the corporations as entities and tries to tell us why those entities become a menace to society, even though the people in them may be good and well-meaning.

The story is told from a very American perspective, and even though it was produced in Canada, focus is very much on the US. We Europeans like to think that we do not have the same kinds of problems with commercialization that the US does, but it is important to remember (as the film reminds us several times) that these are global corporations. Therefore, whatever problems these corporations cause in the US, or in their Asian sweatshops, those become problems in Europe, too. Or in Africa. Or wherever you happen to be.

If there is a problem with The Corporation, it is mainly that the film tries to cover too much ground. There are so many threads going in all kinds of directions that it is impossible to pull it all together into closure. Instead the film ends in what is perhaps a little bit cliché, as we are fed the message that yes, we can do it! If we work together, we can do it! And maybe that is just not true? Only time will tell.

This film is best enjoyed when seen together with the documentaries Orwell Rolls in His Grave and Enron – The Smartest Guys in the Room from around the same time. These three films tackle different aspects of what is basically the same cluster of problems. When seen together they help to provide a larger picture, and even though they cannot subscribe to the absolute truth, they show that many people see the same kinds of things from different perspectives.

"Bow your heads. The corporation will now lead us in prayer." Anti-corporate demonstration in The Corporation (2003)

The Corporation
Download link
Year: 2003
Running time: 2 h 26 min
Directors: Jennifer Abbott, Mark Achbar
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (640×368)
Sound quality: Excellent
Best file format: DivX (700 M + 699 M – 2 parts)