FILM concludes fall season with ?Samsara"

Category:  BloggERy
Monday, December 17th, 2012 at 2:14 PM
FILM concludes fall season with ?Samsara by Ben Speggen

Breathtaking. An adjective used far too often by good writers trying to capture and describe great things. When was the last time – one might ask – that something actually took my breath away, meriting such an accurate description.

“Samsara,” the long-awaited follow-up to 1992’s critically-acclaimed “Baraka” -- which FILM at the Erie Art Museum screened in its spring season -- is, well, just that: a film that literally takes your breath away.

Reuniting filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson, “Samsara” transports viewers to 25 countries, unveiling lush landscapes, remote locations, and pulsing highways, to capture the notion of samsara – Sanskrit for “the ever-turning wheel of life,” leaving viewers often holding their breath until one scene gives way to the next in one big gulp of air.

“In this kind of filmmaking, it’s the reality of the imagery that you bring back that you make the film with rather than whatever you’ve written, and some of the best visual connections you can make in the edit are things that are impossible to plan ahead – that’s the part of all this that is the most exciting and rewarding for me,” said producer, co-editor, and co-writer Magidson in a phone interview with Eric Hynes. “That said, you have the theme of impermanence – it’s essentially what the title ‘Samsara’ means. So there was that kind of imagery we were looking for, to find that out in the world. We started talking in early 2006, and started shooting in January of 2007.”

While not a true sequel to the work Fricke – who directed this film, and also served as its cinematographer, co-editor, and co-writer – and Magidson produced with “Baraka” and 1985’s “Chronos,” “Samsara” follows in “Baraka’s” footsteps, featuring no dialogue – only a sweeping soundtrack that carries viewers from one location to the next for 99 minutes. What’s captured in those 99 minutes took a period of more than five years, with some scenes – one as quick as 8 seconds – taking the filmmakers through sweltering deserts for 4-hour-long treks, which reveals the attention to detail and image captured in “Samsara.”

“A guided meditation on the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth,” as Fricke noted in the interview, “Samsara” is honestly visually stunning – so much so to the point of rendering one forgetful of breathing as a near-spiritual encounter occurs with the scenes on screen. Which makes it a fitting and appropriate conclusion to FILM at the Erie Art Museum’s fall season, as we all hold our breath waiting for the spring-season lineup to be announced Wednesday, Jan. 23, hoping it will be as bold, entertaining, and engaging as both of FILM’s last two seasons were. 

Doors open at 7 p.m. for FILM at the Erie Art Museum, which concludes its fall season with a screening of “Samsara” at 8 p.m. For more information, visit FILM’s Facebook page at


Ben Speggen can be contacted at, and you can follow him on Twitter at @ERbspeggen.

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