A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
If man sends another Voyager to the distant stars and it can carry only one film on board, that film might be "Baraka." It uses no language, so needs no translation. It speaks in magnificent images, natural sounds, and music both composed and discovered. It regards our planet and the life upon it. It stands outside of historical time. To another race, it would communicate: This is what you would see if you came here. Of course this will all long since have disappeared when the spacecraft is discovered.
The film was photographed over 14 months by director Ron Fricke, who invented a time-lapse camera system to use for it. In 1992, it was the first film since 1970 to be photographed in Todd-AO, a 65mm system, and in 2008, it seems to have been the last. The restored 2008 Blu-ray is the finest video disc I have ever viewed or ever imagined. It was made from the Todd-AO print, which was digitally restored to a perfection arguably superior to the original film. It is the first 8K resolution video ever made of a 65mm film, on the world's only scanner capable of it. It is comparable to what is perceptible to the human eye, the restorers say. "Baraka" by itself is sufficient reason to acquire a Blu-ray player.
The film consists of awesome sights, joyful, sad, always in their own way beautiful. By that I do not mean picturesque. A friend came into the room while I was watching the film, saw a closeup of the head of a Gila monster and said, "That's beautiful." I asked if she liked lizards. "I hate lizards," she said, shuddering. She wasn't thinking about lizards. She was observing the iridescent scales of the creature's head. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We are the beholder.
A large gathering of men, shaped in a rough circle, join in synchronous dancing, bowing, standing, kneeling, sitting, standing, their arms in the air, their fingers fluttering like the wings of birds, their voices a rhythmic chatter. Asia, somewhere. They face a statue of the Buddha. Their movements are more complex and intricately timed than the drummers at the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. More inspiring, also, because they have chosen to do this as worship and have not been drilled. They have perfected their ritual, and in their faces we do not see strain or determination, despite the physical ordeal, but contentment and joy. Their movements have the energy of deep enjoyment.