Critics Consensus

It's a tad heavy-handed in its message, but Samsara's overwhelmingly beautiful visuals more than compensate for any narrative flaws.



Total Count: 78


Audience Score

User Ratings: 12,456
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Movie Info

Prepare yourself for an unparalleled sensory experience. Samsara reunites director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson, whose award-winning films Baraka and Chronos were acclaimed for combining visual and musical artistry. 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. -- (C) Oscilloscope

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Critic Reviews for Samsara

All Critics (78) | Top Critics (28)

  • One doesn't have to be a Buddhist to perceive themes of circularity and renewal in Samsara, but it takes that level of patience to suffer its frequent low points with silence and good humour.

    Oct 5, 2012 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…
  • A continuous flow of images of the natural world and the human tide that dominates it.

    Oct 4, 2012 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • A Balinese dancer, an African tribesman, a disfigured marine, a Japanese stripper all stand composed, confident, and dignified, daring you to break the gaze.

    Sep 24, 2012 | Full Review…

    Ken Marks

    New Yorker
    Top Critic
  • Achingly beautiful and visually transfixing, Samsara offers a transporting vacation from the usual multiplex fare. It's a movie to get lost in.

    Sep 23, 2012 | Rating: 3/4
  • "Samsara" finds the world a little less blessed than it was two decades ago, yet still beautiful, which seems to be the movie's primary message.

    Sep 14, 2012 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Fricke and his crew capture such moments as a Hawaiian volcano erupting to life with a stunning, you-are-there clarity. But the film winds up being a collection of striking visuals without any emotional heft.

    Sep 13, 2012 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Samsara

  • Sep 14, 2014
    There is a school of thought amongst film critics that so-called visual poetry should be more the most important element of a documentary, even to the detriment of any information that could be imparted. The technical term for such is watching paint dry. Case in point is "Samsara" which admittedly does have some beautiful imagery but for most of its length it seems spectacularly random. Some things do shine through such as a freakish sequence and a musical number that should also serve as a preview for the fifth season of 'Orange is the New Black.' Otherwise, there are messages I think about progress and overconsumption. But showing an overweight family at a fast food restaurant is such a cheap shot that it is definitely not the way to go.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 19, 2013
    Wordless, surprising documentary featuring time-lapse photography of the desert at night, Cambodian monks constructing a sand mandala, trips to a slaughterhouse and a sex doll factory, and other visual surprises, all set to a soundtrack of (very good) New Agey/world music. A meditative "what you make of it" experience that's something like attending a slideshow of vacation photos shot by the world's greatest photographers.
    Greg S Super Reviewer
  • Dec 30, 2012
    'Samsara'. The beauty and brutality of our world, both man-made and natural, on a scale you've never seen. The visual medium, used perfectly. There's a hypnotic, rhythmic quality to 'Samsara', with recurring elements like the time lapse, manufacturing plant, night to day, and the symmetry of large numbers of people moving together. The framing and cinematography are exquisite. Consumerism runs deeply through the film, and at times, strikes as a little heavy-handed / preachy, but it is what it is, as is our world.
    c0up   Super Reviewer
  • Dec 28, 2012
    Beautiful and impressive imagery and locations.
    hawk l Super Reviewer

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