Metascore
65

Generally favorable reviews - based on 24 Critics What's this?

User Score
8.1

Universal acclaim- based on 36 Ratings

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  • Summary: Expanding on the themes they developed in Baraka (1992) and CHronos (1985), Samsara explores the wonders of our world from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of man’s spirituality and the human experience. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, Samsara takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation. Through powerful images, the film illuminates the links between humanity and the rest of nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet. (Oscilloscope Pictures) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 24
  2. Negative: 1 out of 24
  1. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Sep 7, 2012
    100
    With a title taken from an American Indian word for "life out of balance," Godfrey Reggio's wordless documentary lured dreamers into the sacred cave of cinema, where they ingested the serial music of Philip Glass and the time-lapse imagery of cinematographer Ron Fricke.
  2. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Sep 6, 2012
    83
    The word 'samsara' means 'continuous flow of life' in Tibetan, and Fricke and company surely experienced that sensation in making the film, which took them to 25 countries in a span of five years.
  3. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Aug 23, 2012
    80
    A spool of arresting, beautifully composed shots without narration or dialogue, Samsara is an invitation to watch closely and to suspend interpretation (another notion Sontag might have approved).
  4. Reviewed by: Farran Smith Nehme
    Aug 23, 2012
    63
    The drawbacks to this often rhapsodically beautiful film lie not in the journey itself, but in the preachy detours taken along the way.
  5. Reviewed by: Sam Wigley
    Aug 21, 2012
    60
    Jaw-dropping in colour and splendour, but if the constant awe gets a bit tiring, at its best you can genuinely feel some great wheel turning.
  6. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    Aug 31, 2012
    50
    It's a purely sensory journey until the pictures start making editorial comments, in slaughterhouses and garbage dumps.
  7. Reviewed by: Mark Feeney
    Sep 6, 2012
    38
    The result is like an issue of National Geographic gone mad.

See all 24 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 11
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 11
  3. Negative: 0 out of 11
  1. Jul 6, 2013
    10
    A visual and audio experience you will never forget, and a wordless meditation on life on earth in all its beauty, grandeur, and horror. Here, the images do all the talking. And if they make the Wall Street Journal uncomfortable, all the better. Expand
  2. Oct 23, 2012
    10
    This film is billed as a "guided meditation", and it really is one. If you approach it as such it's absolutely wonderful. But you have to stay with it, and like in meditation, allow your active pursuit of patterns and connections to fall away. Expand
  3. Dec 2, 2012
    9
    This was a great movie, I saw it twice just to take my other friend. Whoever these critics are need to be FIRED. This was a beautiful movie, there's couple parts that were a bit odd and a little strange. But this is a very good, well done, beautiful movie. Also all done without speaking a word. Well done. Collapse
  4. Aug 30, 2012
    9
    Samsara is an incredible collection of moving images, a poignant portrayal of human life in the third millennium. It covers the humorously absurd, the depressingly cruel, and stunningly beautiful traits of being a human. Almost every shot in this film is something you've never seen before, even if it's a shot of a local Costco, or highway. The camera's lens captures what the human eye can't see. I'd agree that sometimes it is a little didactic, and relentless with its social criticism, but you won't mind because you'll be too busy soaking up everything you're seeing. The human subject is never treated as a pawn in the filmmaker's argument, instead every pair of eyes is allowed to exist in front of yours. A spectacle in every sense of the word. Expand
  5. Mar 26, 2013
    8
    Saw a trailer for this on Reddit and thought to myself "Hmm, that must be something interesting." Think of this as a visual documentary film. Absolutely STUNNING shots, and there seems to be multiple messages (if you want to think of it that way) that the director and producers are trying to send. The main one that I have figured out was that we once started out as a basic society, and have evolved a ridiculous amount...Unbelievable. If you enjoy documentaries and have about 2 hours to kill, I would highly recommend this movie. Expand
  6. Apr 20, 2013
    8
    I'm doing Samsara a disservice by comparing it to Chronos and Baraka (which the film revisits on several occasions) but also felt underwhelmed by the end; I can't help but feel that it's missing something; a mesmeric otherworldliness that Baraka had (though maybe it's the soundtrack). Still, a work like Samsara is still worlds away and more meaningful than most films. Expand
  7. Mar 26, 2013
    7
    This movie falls in the very select category of non-verbal films. It is not made for everyone. Most movies present a story to the viewer and the viewer has no reflection to make about the storyline until the movie is over. Samsara gives images to the viewer, but barely reflects a concrete scenario and therefore it demands that the viewer must think and make a personal interpretation of the images. In this sense, it is like a painting. When you view a painting, and especially abstract ones, you will get your own vibe from it and you might discover that those who saw it might not have had the same conclusion about its message. The same can be said about Samsara, along with the other Ron Fricke movies. Many people will look down upon those who take the time to interpret a painting and I am not surprised many critics took this movie down. Fricke's work as a cinematographer has been unsurpassed since the mid 80's. The way he presents his subject is both direct and abstract at the same time. His influence on today's cinema is perhaps one of the biggest unknown fact. Many popular directors of today have seen Fricke's work while studying cinema and took lessons whilst watching his movies. Fricke is the undisputed master of timelapse for he not only puts his camera in the right place, he also puts it at the right time and finds a way to capture deeply poetic images. I've always considered Fricke to be the heir of Stanley Kubrick in terms of cinematography. Samsara, however, lacks the athmosphere Kubrick put in his films. Baraka was able to create an obvious athmosphere. So what happened? The problem is, Samsara will often give us images of what we have seen before in Fricke's movies, which make certain scenes look like they have been patched to fill an emptyness that isn't really there in the first place. It's also a problem that Samsara is clearly "Baraka 2". Even the font used in the title is similar to Baraka's. Baraka, while capturing some images previously seen in Koyaanisqatsi and Chronos, managed to make something original nonetheless, whether it be thanks to editing or great music. Samsara is too intimately tied to Baraka, which reduce its originality. Lisa Gerrard and Michael Stearns' music sometimes seems to lack the intensity it had in Baraka as well. Overall, the vast majority flaws of this movie reside in the post production, because what Fricke was able to capture all over the world was sincere, breathtaking and inspiring. I believe Fricke wanted to do certain things in Baraka, but was limited, whether it be because of time, money or other reasons. So he made Samsara in the hopes that he could catch up on what he wanted to do initially. And he sure could do it with Samsara because he had Baraka's fame behind him. But he overestimated his ability to find originality in an already well used concept. Samsara isn't bad. Far from it. There are scenes that stand out from others. I especially enjoyed the scene of the man going through various facial transformations, an obvious critique of today's materialistic world and the cult of the image. It was unsettling, vivid and definitely marked some sort of cornerstone within the movie afterwards, it seems Samsara got better and better. I believe Fricke's next movie will be definitely different from what we have seen so far. Samsara is the extra stuff Fricke wanted to finally get done with and now that he has done it I expect him to undergo an artistic metamorphosis. My prediction is that Fricke's next movie will contain... Words. Expand

See all 11 User Reviews

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