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2004 Mini Reviews

Baraka (1992)

Baraka
Directed by Ron Fricke
Running Time: 70 mins

Baraka is a film without dialog, but instead a series of artistic images combined with beautiful sounds and music that celebrate life and nature.

Okay .. well, almost. The first 30-40 minutes of the film are entrancing, as the filmmakers take you through a visual journey including jawdropping landscapes, harmonious tribal rituals, and mesmerizing time lapse photography that capture the beauty of the atmosphere. The first half of the film needs no dialog, no monologue, no narrative to push the viewer along. The artistry succeeds well enough.

The problem is that the film switches gears. Instead of the beautiful imagery such as in the beginning of the film, it resorts to haunting images about industrialization or mass consumerism. There is a brief scene in an egg incubation plant, a scene with some Asian prostitutes, several scorched earth scenes, and a long sequence showing European ruins.

The thesis becomes clear just as the 2nd act begins, which is that Man has effectively destroyed nature, and continues to do so today. This is a worthy message, which I believe many should hear. However, it does not work as artistic filmmaking, at least not when the bar has been raised so high in the same film. The scenes that show the destruction caused by man make a distinctive point, but are almost unwatchable. It was during this point of the film where I began yawning, and wonder when (or if) they would to the captivating time lapse shots that reeled me in to begin with.

I ended the film both elated and disappointed.

I recommend this film as a rental, but rather than suffering the political statement, just turn the film off at around the sweatshop scene.

Score: 6/10


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