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Holy Cow, 'Samsara' Might Be the Most Beautiful Movie Ever

It seems like every trailer for a blockbuster has at least one guy willing to offer up a “VISUALLY FACE-MELTING” pull-quote, regardless of whether that’s true or not. But Samsara, a new film by director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson, looks the...

by Derek Mead
Aug 1 2012, 6:00pm

It seems like every trailer for a blockbuster has at least one guy willing to offer up a “VISUALLY FACE-MELTING” pull-quote, regardless of whether that’s true or not. But Samsara, a new film by director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson, looks the part. Set to be released August 24 across the U.S., Samsara looks to build on the duo’s past works, 1992’s Baraka and 1985’s Chronos, which are both films that you can honestly say are beautiful. Seriously, don’t watch this trailer until it’s full screen and HD. I know someone’s going to take issue with that headline, but as stunning as a Kurosawa or Kubrick film can be, I can’t think of another flick that simply looks this amazing.

Just to get it out of the way, here’s some of the teaser boilerplate from Vimeo:

SAMSARA is a Sanskrit word that means "the ever turning wheel of life" and is the point of departure for the filmmakers as they search for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives. Filmed over a period of almost five years and in twenty-five countries, SAMSARA transports us to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders. By dispensing with dialogue and descriptive text, SAMSARA subverts our expectations of a traditional documentary, instead encouraging our own inner interpretations inspired by images and music that infuses the ancient with the modern.

But forget all that. This thing just looks stunning. The whole film was shot with 70mm film, a large format that’s twice as wide (duh) as the 35mm film classically used in filmmaking. That’s a gross oversimplification, of course, as there are numerous formats used to shoot — especially with the wealth of full-frame (35mm) and cropped digital sensors out there now — but the beauty of using massive 70mm film is how much resolution it can pull out of images.

That’s the reason the massive panning shots of landscapes in the Samsara trailer have a sort of 3D effect. (IMAX is also 70mm, albeit a different aspect ratio.) There’s just an incredible amount of depth and dynamic range in the shots, and that’s what give you the feeling that you’re actually there hanging your eyeballs out of a helicopter.

I have no idea what Samsara is actually about, as it’s not a film with a story in the regular sense. If Baraka provides any clues (and it should), Samsara looks to be an audio-visual mix of the beauty of the human condition worldwide, or something like that. (There’s your pull quote right there!) In any case, I can’t wait to see it simply for the incredible camera work alone. The first New York screening is August 24, who wants to grab the reggae eel and go?

Follow Derek Mead on Twitter: @derektmead.

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