Directed by Ron Fricke Club, IFI, Dublin, 96 min
IF YOU WERE determined to dislike the whole Ron Fricke experience, you could try arguing that his films form one continuous mass of vaguely connected images. The director’s Baraka (1992), re-released in an unmissable 70mm print, blends neatly into the recent, equally gorgeous Samsara.
The films were made 20 years apart. But, given the focus on ancient environments, they both seem to be taking place in the same otherworldly limbo. Baraka’s accompanying images of ghastly modernity – traffic, mass production – also seem undiminished by the passing decades. You may as well criticise Turner for sticking with landscapes.
Fricke, who honed his art working as cinematographer on Godfrey Reggio’s not dissimilar Koyaanisqatsi, has made the format his own. Working in an area – defiantly non-narrative cinema – that normally attracts austere experimentalists, he has produced films that appeal equally to chemically befuddled students and curious ethnologists.
As ever, no summary is possible. But Baraka does have a kind of structure: pure nature leads onto man’s desecration of the planet before we encounter shots of ancient, largely untouched cultures. Along the way, we touch down in the Galapagos Islands, Mecca and the Ganges.
The films are at times just a little preachy about naughty mankind. But the technical brilliance of the photography and the sheer ingenuity in digging up so many extraordinary locations will win over even the most cynical viewers. If ever there were a film worth seeing on the biggest screen, it is Baraka.