Critics Consensus

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



Reviews Counted: 78

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Average Rating: 4.1/5

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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

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
Greg S

Super Reviewer


'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.


Super Reviewer

Well, this is kind of impossible to review. Well, not impossible, but certainly difficult. I watched this film, not sure of what to expect (if I should expect anything from a film that describes itself as "search[ing] for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives") and I got a bizarre experience to say the least. The best way I can describe it as a filmed meditation on the cycles of the world and mocking the insanity of American culture (in certain regards mind you). The movie doesn't really start in a cohesive fashion, but by about the 10 minute mark you'll wrap your head around the way the "narrative" works. Once you do this, the movie is a beautifully shot work of art, but possibly a bit too on the nose about its message. Great film overall though. Find a local theater that's showing it (I had to drive an hour and 10 minutes to find a place that was showing it near me) and give it a try.

Jacob Ethington
Jacob Ethington

Super Reviewer

Samsara thrives when it celebrates our world without judgment. A symphonic poem, the breathtaking images literally hypnotize the viewer into a trance inducing state. From, religious place of worship like pagodas in Burma and the vaulted ceilings of the Vatican to Muslims circling the Grand Mosque at Mecca. Gorgeous vistas of the sandstone arches of Utah's Monument Valley to half dome Yosemite Valley. Even the urban cityscapes of Shanghai and Dubai: archive a poetic beauty amongst all the natural wonders. A cityscape at night shows cars zipping along the highway in multicolored electronic glow. Like glowing electronic arteries, the modernity is hypnotic on the big screen. It's the visual manifestation of a dream and occasionally a nightmare. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Samsara would take a lifetime to read.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer

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