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'Samsara' Director and Producer On Globetrotting Across 25 Countries to Shoot Their Follow-Up to 'Baraka' on Gorgeous 70mm

By Gabrielle Lipton | Indiewire August 20, 2012 at 12:43PM

Filmed for over five years in 25 countries and on 70mm, "Samsara" can most simply be described as an experience. There are no words, just a driving score; no characters, just startlingly honest portraits; no sets, just a global stage.
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"Samsara"
Oscilloscope Laboratories "Samsara"

You said this film was more about people than your others, and these portraits definitely conveyed that. Are most of them accidents like this, or did you plan them?

Fricke: The portraits are all posed in front of the camera, and they’re just told to stare into the lens and don’t blink. The blinky ones don’t work. Like the shot with the Geisha, she was a pro, and we hired her. But right in the sweet spot of the shot, she started to tear up because of the makeup and the lights. And I was just thinking, God, is she really doing what I think she’s doing? Yes, yes, don’t blink! I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. The camera is taking the audience right up to her and squeezing that tear out. It has feeling.

One of the most difficult parts about any sort of project or work of art is knowing when to stop. How do you know?

Fricke: It’s like a painting, you’re right. You just keep working on it. Maybe we ran out of money, or I don’t know why. I could have gone on.

Magidson: But films take up a big space in your life, with families and everything else. Like for me, when "Baraka" was done, I thought I can’t do this again. It’s just such an ordeal to finish one of these films.

Fricke: It’s a little different, these projects. It’s a lot of work.

After all of this labor and love, do you have any regrets?

Fricke: North Korea. I keep thinking about it.

Magidson: We tried for two years to get in to film these mass games and performances they have. Everybody gets dressed up, and it would have just been an amazing visual extravaganza, but we couldn’t get it to go through. We got close. We were working with the U.N., but being American was two strikes against us already.

Fricke:  It’s a treasure there. That thing is so beautiful, what they do, and the West hasn’t seen it yet. But North Korea isn’t going anywhere, either.

Magidson:  Maybe the next film.

This article is related to: Interviews, Samsara







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