Documentary claims to have this privileged purchase on a truthful version of reality – it’s not fiction, this is the real – but most documentaries’ representation of the real is so attenuated and so discourse-based and language-based. We lie and we mystify ourselves with words. Words can only take us so far.
While undeniably beautiful, this film left a bad taste in my mouth. Samsara is a series of images, cut together in fairly rapid succession, taking the viewer on a “global” tour of the “cultures of the world”. Some images are meant to be purely aesthetically beautiful (which they are), some images are meant to be confrontational. But as these are just images, without context, and in the absence of any explicit narrative, the meaning comes from montage, and I did not care for that meaning.
Yes, there is confrontation, but there is also exploitation and exoticization. Unlike (from what I hear) Baraka, Samsara concerns itself mainly with humans. The near absence of white people, except for a few shots from the American south (there are probably others, but not many) tells me that Fricke is not so much focused on painting a full portrait of humanity, but on painting an exotic portrait of the Other for art-consumers (rich, white) to experience (with that experience ending in the theatre). I am still interested in seeing Baraka, but Samsara rubbed me the wrong way.