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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Samsara

January 19th, 2013

Samsara - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

There are many reasons why I pick and choose the screeners I want to review. Sometimes it is a big film and I want to know what the buzz was about. Sometimes it is a smaller film that I think deserved more publicity. Sometimes it is because of the cast or the director. Sometimes, the reason is a little weirder. Part of my job is cataloging every movie based on their keywords. Its a daunting task and involves a lot of research, usually reading a number of reviews. When it came to Samsara, no matter how many reviews I read, I couldn't quite figure out what it was about. So when an offer to review it arrived, I said yes right away. I needed to see the film for myself.

The Movie

So what is the movie about? I don't know. The movie is little more than a number of scenes of various spiritual rituals, modern activities, nature, etc. We see several Buddhist monks create a Sand Mandala and several people being baptized. Modern appliances are being made. Old cars are being crushed. There are many scenes of people dancing, wearing traditional dress, etc. There are majestic scenes of nature from deserts to glaciers to volcanoes. Various forms of architecture, from modern cities and highways to ancient ruins. The back of the Blu-ray box says, "Prepare yourself for an unparalleled sensory experience." And that's what this is. It is a sensory experience and not a movie, in the traditional sense of the word. I now understand why it was so hard to figure out what the movie was about by reading reviews.

That said, it is a strangely engaging film. The diversity of scenes means one never knows what will be shown next, but there is a flow to the film. There are many scenes that are beautiful, some strange, some disturbing, but they are always able to draw you in. With the calming music, the experience becomes something special.

The Extras

There is a massive 49-minute making of / behind-the-scenes / filmmakers' interview. As for the film's technical presentation... If I were to use one word, it would be perfection. This is absolutely demo quality in terms of both the video and the 7.1 surround sound audio. The film was shot in 70mm and it is absolutely gorgeous. There's not a lot of sound, so the score surrounding you is even more important, and it is expertly done. The Blu-ray costs 25% more than the DVD, and it is absolutely worth the upgrade.

The Verdict

Samsara is absolutely worth owning and it is equally true that the Blu-ray is worth the extra money over the DVD. It's not a traditional movie, or even a traditional documentary, but it is a series of beautifully shot scenes and is very engaging.

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Filed under: Video Review, Samsara