People have been telling me to see this film for quite some time. I think Tony told me first and most often. Baraka is hard to describe. For some reason I was expecting something more music video than story and more psychedelic than linear. It’s none of these things and all of them. I’m not going to pretend to be able to describe it in detail here. It needs to be watched and the less specific your expectations are the better I think. But I will try to give you an impression of what the experience was like for me.
If ever I had any doubt about just how weird and wonderful this world is in all of its diversity of manifestation, Baraka put that concern to rest. The cinematography is stunning. The music, the sounds amazing. The sequence of shots tells a story that words would have only muddled and confined.
At times I was reminded of Planet Earth simply because of a sense of awe that someone had managed to film what I was looking at and managed to do so in such an intensely beautiful and powerfully delicate way. Nothing seems contrived or rehearsed or even particularly concerned with the camera. The director Ron Fricke plays with time and scale exploring both the sacred and the mundane.
Through ritual, through design, through creating, moving, praying, working and intensely held stillness the scenes that are shown in this movie weave an image of intense differences at many levels, but left me with a sense of a far deeper and more universal common core. Through 152 locations in 24 countries nature is put on display in all of it’s geographical, animal, human and technological forms. I was often left with a sense that there was something at work in all of these scenes, a common drive, a shared want or need, that seems to express itself in the most wonderfully weird and inexplicable ways depending on the environment.
I wasn’t sure how much I would be in the mood for Baraka at home alone on this Sunday morning with a slight hang over and a lot on my mind. I anticipated a broken viewing with a lot of pausing and getting up to eat or sleep or play guitar. I was in state for most of it; transfixed by the unexpected and lulled by the sweetness of it all. Even in it’s darkness the images are tender and full of life.
In case you can’t tell. I highly recommend seeing this film. Find the biggest screen you can and don’t be shy with the volume. And if you do see it or have seen it, please hit the comment button below and share a response. I’d love to hear your reactions.
Baraka was released in 1992. A sequel, Samsara, is scheduled for release in 2010. I can’t wait to see this in the theater. And apparently in 2007 the original film from Baraka was rescanned in an extremely high end custom manner, the audio remastered, and the whole thing released on Blu-ray disc in what Roger Ebert described as “the finest video disc I have ever viewed or ever imagined.” I think it may be time for me to update my DVD player.