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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Wendy Ide

Samsara review – unlike anything else you will experience in the cinema

‘Remarkable immersive voyage’: Samsara. Photograph: © Sr&Sra

All great cinema is a journey of sorts, but there comes a point when it feels as though film-makers are treading the same well-worn paths. Not so with Spanish director Lois Patiño’s remarkable immersive voyage Samsara (the title refers to the Buddhist cycle of deaths and rebirths): part film, part guided meditation, it’s unlike anything else you can experience in the cinema.

The film starts in Laos, where a Buddhist boy is reading to an elderly woman, Mon (Simone Milavanh), from the Bardo Thödol, a guide to the journey between death and reincarnation. When Mon dies, a message on screen invites us to close our eyes in order to accompany her on her journey to her next life, as a young goat born on the coast of the island of Zanzibar. This 15-minute segment plays out to a textured tapestry of sound woven from the natural world; flickering, rippling colours and strobing light pulses on the screen – viewed through closed eyelids – create a kind of lightshow in the mind’s eye. There’s a distant kinship perhaps, in the theme of cycles of life, with Michelangelo Frammartino’s documentary Le Quattro Volte. But Samsara is a strikingly original and profound artwork. See it (and hear it) in a cinema, if at all possible.

Watch a trailer for Samsara.
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