Lois Patiño (director)
26 January 2024 (released)
25 January 2024
It would be easy to boil down Samsara to a commentary of different death rituals. It’s seeded throughout the film. In Laos, Amid takes his boat out across the lake to read to an old lady Tibetan stories. Later its remarked by one of Laos monks that Tibetan Buddhism differs from that in Laos. Later on, in Zanzibar a mother explains to her daughter that there are many different customs surrounding death. Theirs, Muslim, is burial, others burn, the Massai used to leave the bodies in the jungle.
However the thrust here is the Buddhist cycle of birth, death and life, ‘Samsara’ and the transference of the soul upon death.
The film has a natural beauty and profound elements as the monks with mobiles in hand get as one with nature. Or later on in Zanzibar the women bantering as they work picking the seaweed of the beach to be processed and make money. The men attend a fish auction. The children playing and learning from their teachers and others, the visiting Massai.
There’s no commentary, the script rudimentary with the loose characters interacting as needs be.
Director Lois Patiño with co-writer Gabiñe Ortega have a hands-off approach in this pseudo documentary when it comes to the participants. They are far more controlling when it comes to the visuals.
It is a film full of beautiful landscapes and compositions (the Laos monks in their orange tunics stunningly set against white water and stone waterfall). Stencilled images are laid across the screen almost as a preparation for things to come.
Which they do when the old lady dies, and she embarks upon The Bardo. Here the screen goes black and the viewer is requested to close their eyes for the duration of the voyage. This a remarkable audio and visual sequence with washes and blips of light and colour, the effectiveness of which will be dependent on how and where you are watching it.
Flashing images and sounds are directed at the viewer that does feel as though you are on a journey. At times I thought I could see my own retinas, others will no doubt have a different experience.
It may be lazy but the immediate thoughts are the 2001 stargate sequence and that the images produced wouldn’t be out of place as back-projections at a Hawkwind concert.
Nevertheless it is beautiful and very original, whether it is ultimately a profound experience will depend on the individual.
Samsara will be released in UK and Irish cinemas and Curzon Home Cinema, on 26 January 2024.