Baraka (1992), or Motion’s Eloquence

18 02 2009
This is a such a moving experience...

This is a such a moving experience...

Afternoon, fellow humans! Thanks again to Stephen for another reader recommendation! He is the one of the greatest contributors to this site, and he really keeps me steered in the right direction. Thanks for being so awesome! Today is a movie that will be hard to review. Not because of its lack of plot. Not because of its lack of characters. It will be difficult to review this movie because it took my breath away. It is a documentary about no less than human culture in its entirety. It seems almost everything that makes us the shrill, victorious animals we are lies in this film.

Filmed in 24 different countries and over 150 locations, this movie tells our story, the story of the human race in modern times. There is no dialog, no conscious series of events. There is no anchor to keep us moored. Instead we are thrown out into the human wilderness, and all the joy and sadness that exists within it. We go to India, where young children scrounge in the dirt for some measly living. We watch in exquisite time-lapse as people come and go  through a Tokyo tram terminal, interspersed with footage of millions of tiny yellow chicks being funneled through conveyor belt after conveyor belt, treated as a commodity and put into small boxes where they will go off and endure the life of a modern farm. The camera looks to the sky in silence as a storm falls on the Serengeti and treats the earth with the awe and reverence it demands. Religious ceremonies touch hands with culture and dancing, and they touch hands with man’s assault on the earth, and they touch hands with the joy of community, and they all touch hands with the peace of nature and the equilibrium that can be found with it. Everything touches hands in this film because we are all one in a way, and we must all take the responsibility for the wonderment and the sorrow that comes with this fact.

This is the best documentary I have ever seen. Hell, this might be one of the greatest films I have ever seen period. I have rarely been so moved to emotion before. Some scenes, like the 20 seconds of the frightened little girl on the cover, are inexplicably beautiful and haunt you long after you have left the film. is It is often compared to Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (Life Out of Balance). The two films are similar (director Ron Fricke was cinematographer on that film), but this film is much more ambitious. Reggio’s film was content with merely showing us the error of our ways in what we like to call the Third World. This film not only takes us all over the world to places our imagination can scarcely leap to, but has even more to say. It allows us silence to contemplate the world that we have made and the world that existed before us, and gives us insight into the truth of the tall vicious beast known as man. “Who are they, these humans?” all the world around us seems to say, and the many divergent cultures shown in the film seek to answer the question posed to us. But still there are mysteries, and no easy answers for the curious and breathless earth.

The soundtrack is great! Ambient composer Michael Stearns orchestrates a superb blend of world music. It is a very tasteful blend of music from around the globe, featuring songs from L. Subramanian, David Hykes, Dead Can Dance, and Brother. There is not one wasted note here, and sometimes a  note here can last for minutes, trilling off into the sunset. If you like world music, ambient music, or experimental compositions, I would recommend also buying the soundtrack.

I watched this on Blu-Ray, and this version is by far the best-looking movie I have ever seen. I have read up on the extensive process that the film underwent to look this good, and I must say that I am more than impressed. Movies just released last week do not look this wonderful. It is mind-boggling. The image pops like no other, and if I were not a modern man with the knowledge to understand just what it was I was looking at, I would have thought there were actual people in the television. I am serious. If you can, I highly recommend the Blu-Ray version. I have not seen the regular DVD version, and one day I might look at it for the purposes of comparison, but really I do not think it could rival this in any way. It is too damn good. I am very serious. You will not find a movie that looks this good anywhere else on the planet right now.

I have said enough. The word “baraka” means “blessing” in a number of languages, and that is a very apt description of what this movie is. I implore you to see this. You will never look at the world the same way again. It is that good of a movie. Your heart will be touched and your words will be stripped from out of your mouth as you grasp for an adequate description. If you can only see one film this year, please make it the Blu-Ray edition of Baraka. It comes with a full recommendation from me, Eric. I give this movie 10 shrill, victorious animals out of 10.

Tomorrow is the beginning of this month’s theme week. Comedy is the front-runner right now, so if if nobody votes against it, I will watch comedies all week starting tomorrow. If you want me to watch something else, vote now! Otherwise, get ready for a chuckle-fest extravaganza tomorrow as I dig a ditch to bury Gigli in. Until then!