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An Interview With the Creators of the World-Spanning and Visually Stunning 70mm Film 'Samsara'

This past weekend I went to go see the opening of Samsara in glorious 4K at Seattle’s Cinerama. The word “breathtaking” is often bandied about in movie reviews to the point where it’s become cliché, but believe me when I say that this movie is truly breathtaking. Shot on 70mm film in 25 countries over 5 years with no dialogue or narration, the film is essentially a visually rich cross-section of life around the globe. David Poland of DP/30 recently interviewed the makers of Samsara — director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson (the same filmmakers behind Baraka and Chronos) — to talk about the shooting and editing of the film and their thoughts on film and digital technologies.

You can check out the film’s trailer below:

(Note: There is somewhat of a spoiler about the beginning and end of the film in the interview):


During and after the film I kept wondering whether the meaning of the juxtaposed images had an intended message aside from the theme of birth, death, and rebirth, or if the meaning I was inferring was just the good old Kuleshov effect at work. The interview with the filmmakers doesn’t really shed any light on this specifically, but Fricke emphasized that the film was about flow and interconnectedness. And perhaps that suggests the best way to look at the film: an outpouring of images that –while having an over arching cohesive theme– will tell a different story to each person that views it.

Samsara is an extraordinary example of visual storytelling and I can’t recommend it enoughFor a full schedule of screenings in cities both in the U.S. and abroad, visit the Samsara website.

Link: Samsara – Official Website

[Via: DP/30]

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  • Baraka is amazing on Blu Ray and I’m sure Samsara was amazing in 4K! Wish I could have made it up to Seattle to see it. These movies aren’t only a feat in Cinematography but in pre production as well. When you see some of the places they got access to it’s mind blowing. They were able to get BIG equipment into some of the (seemingly) most sacred religious locations on earth. To me, this fact makes the shots even more impressive.

  • Baraka is the best quality blu ray I have ever seen. While there is no conventional dialogue or voice over every beautiful shot tells a real story. I have my tickets for the Samsara 4k screening in LA and am very excited. The theater actually apologized that no 70mm film prints are being released and hoped I will be all right with just 4k. If 4k is an apology I really want to see what a 70mm film print looks like.

    • Daniel Mimura on 09.18.12 @ 7:03PM

      I agree…Baraka is the best bluray I’ve ever seen. It’s the 1st feature film scanned at 8K (definitely showing off the benefits of oversampling)…

      I saw it at the Cinerama in Seattle in 4k…the manager told me that Ron Fricke himself (who was here for a screening) said that he prefers it to be seen in 4k, so that was his choice, not the limitations of the local theater.

      I completely understand…I recently saw a brand new 70mm print of 2001 and noticed the strobing in the highlights…for this reason, Fricke apparently prefers shooting in 65mm, but presenting it digitally.

      The Cinerama has a very large screen, and I was sitting dead center…I only noticed some blocking on a couple shots, but honestly, it was less distracting than the strobing of the highlights of A Space Odyssey.

  • I saw Samsara in 4K at Tiff, and although visually it was super sharp due to the 4k, the scenes and the narrative were overall much weaker than Baraka. Much of it seemed to be disjointed unlike Baraka which although had no dialogue had a clear theme and narrative flow.

    One scene from Samsara sticks out in my mind, it was a great performance by a french actor, however I won’t spoil it.

    Still worth seeing.

  • I don’t understand why all the 70mm hype for this film. It was shot on 65mm and there wasn’t even a single 70mm print struck. Why is 70mm in all the press? I’m confused. If someone could please explain this to me I’d be happy. Maybe I just don’t understand film as well as I think?

    • If I’m not mistaken they built their own 70mm camera for this and Baraka. It’s a film that forces the viewer to find their own narrative since they give you the music and the visuals only. At times it’s obvious (they show many shots of starving children and then cut to obese children in America let’s say) and other times it’s more subtle. The images are so amazing though that you can block all of that out and still enjoy it.

    • The extra 5mm in a 70mm print are for the mag sound. Usually 70mm films are shot on 65mm stock. The 4K projection might make 70mm prints unnecessary if the image is exemplary.

    • Also, films used to be shot with 35mm cameras.
      A 70mm film allow to have 4 times the “resolution” of a regular film, so with this movies you can experience extremely rich colors, depth and definition of the images.
      You probably need to experience it to understand it!

    • David Harris on 08.30.12 @ 4:55PM

      65mm is the negative stock used which is then contact printed…i.e.- a reel of 65mm negative has the print stock (70mm) laid over it as the light shines from within its radius- the inner peel of an onion is smaller than the next layer. As they didn’t do this for the digital release it’s obviously an easy way of marketing the high quality image was not shot on 35mm, 16mm or digital. People have heard about 70mm, not 65mm.

      • ah ok. Thanks everyone. I was confused because I love Baraka and was surprised when the new American Cinematographer came out and Ron Fricke was talking about shooting on 65mm.

  • That was awesome, and I am stoked to see it at Navy Pier’s IMAX now!

    Side note: So weird seeing an article here about a film shot on film with no mention of Canon, Sony, RED, or the BMCC. It’s almost… refreshing.

  • Oh my god whats wrong with this interviewer? He gets these two guys in a room and asks the most boring technical questions. I would love to hear more of the creative side of their thought process. I just hope I have a chance to see this on the big screen!

  • Pierre Samuel Rioux on 08.30.12 @ 8:00PM

    I enjoy this interview with Ron Fricke and Marck Magidson
    i like very much the type of work they do.
    I like to see this Samsara in theater.
    The film BARAKA made by them one year i watch it 9 times, this year i watch it only 1 time.
    They influence me in my documentary i using less voice over and used more what is going on to do the narrated part.
    I think they surpasses themselves with SAMSARA

  • Michael Soomon on 08.30.12 @ 8:40PM

    How does one actually see this film?

  • This looks visually spectacular, the first thing I thought of was the Qatsi series and Baraka . I was surprised to find that there was prior involvement with both of these projects. I’m not %100 sure why this was made (though would jump at the chance myself to visit these places, which may be reason enough alone) Seems a bit redundant, Baraka but with a bigger dong.

  • I’m guessing you would have a pretty shallow dof with a 70mm “sensor”. Good thing they’re using a lot of really wide angles.

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