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  • Film
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Photograph: Curzon

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Tune in and let Spanish dream-weaver Lois Patiño take you on a trip through sound and space

If you’re looking for a meditative experience without all the bending and stretching of a yoga class, Samsara is just the immersive ticket. 

Taking its name from the Buddhist philosophy of the cyclical nature of life, death and reincarnation, Spanish filmmaker Lois Patiño takes audiences on a sensory journey. There’s little plot; instead, we follow the soul of an elderly woman called Mon (Simone Milavanh) as it travels from Laos to Zanzibar via our mind’s eye. Patiño offers a laconic stream of consciousness in three parts to engage viewers with cultural and religious traditions that connect the world.

Opening in Laos, the camera slowly pans across a sea of Buddhist monks-in-training, eyes closed in meditation. The syncopated call of an unseen animal can be heard over the hum of crickets and the domestic goings-on in the temple around them. It’s a peaceful and patient soundscape that soothingly soundtracks the monks, in their vibrant orange robes, as they go about their daily routines. 

If you’re looking for a meditative experience without all the bending and stretching of yoga, Samsara is just the ticket 

The cast of non-actors adds to the gentle naturalism of the camerawork, as does the lean dialogue penned by Patino and co-writer Garbiñe Ortega. From two novice monks discussing their choice to study instead of continuing their impoverished lives working in rice fields, to the older women in Zanzibar fretting over luxury hotels polluting the water they farm seaweed in, Samsara is as much an examination of the social and economic effects of international tourism and trade on rural communities as it is an exploration of the metaphysical. The latter manifests hazily when characters enter their subconscious; a shot of one sleeping monk dissolves into vibrant orange and another monk takes the illustrated form of people.

When Amid (Amid Keomany) – a young man who reads to the dying Mon from ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’ – closes his eyes, the frame transitions into a ship. It signals the beginning of Mon’s transmigration to Zanzibar where the final act playfully imagines her new life as a goat. For ten minutes, however, Patiño invites you to close your eyes and join her on this soulful voyage. It’s an intense aural exercise challenging you to let go and let the crashing of waves, thunderstorms and rhythmic beats engulf your senses while the flickering lights dance against the blackness of your vision.

In a hectic world of chaos and crisis, Samsara offers a glorious solution: close your eyes to truly open them.

In UK cinemas Jan 26

Hanna Flint
Written by
Hanna Flint

Cast and crew

  • Director:Lois Patiño
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