Filming the immaterial: "Samsara" review

English Daily #1
SAMSARA (2023) / International Competition
Lois Patiño
9/7 12:30, Moscow Cinema Blue Hall
12/7 19:30, Moscow Cinema Blue Hall

When an aging Buddhist woman in rural Laos passes away and a lamb is born around the beaches of Zanzibar, Tanzania, one wants to believe that what we’ve witnessed in Lois Patiño’s remarkable Samsara is nothing short of reincarnation. And even if reincarnation doesn’t exist — who’s to say, honestly? —, the deep ruminations of Samsara still make you aware of the cyclical nature of life on earth, the way every living organism is bound by the cosmic destiny of sharing a sliver of time and space on this planet. Such is the brilliance of Patiño, that his film channels pure spiritualism in the gentlest, most loving and concise way, basically making a cinematic gesture to contemplate the many mysteries of living and dying. Its skillful blend of luminous 16mm cinematography and inquisitive sound design conjures a world both familiar and mystic, as if there’s endless layers of meaning behind the documentary-like imagery. Resisting the trappings of a conventional arthouse narrative, Samsara instead opts for something more daring and adventurous: a cinematic journey into “Bardo”, the liminal state between life and death. It’s truly a sight to behold, or, rather, a work of art to experience, when Samsara starts to explore the outer-edges of cinema and turns the film theater into a haptic vessel that traverses the unknown. The result is profoundly transformational — this soul-stirring film will leave no one unmoved.

Hugo Emmerzael