Samsara (2001)

Directed by
Mixed views
Reviewed by Simon on 2003-06-07

Beautifully photographed and soundtracked but slightly boring movie about... err, the meaning of life and stuff I guess .

A monk called Tashi emerges from 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days of silent meditation in a cave to find that he still hasn't conquered the desires of the flesh. On a trip to a nearby village he encounters that old temptress Christy Chung, and finds that suddenly the whole "be a monk" idea isn't quite as appealing as it once was...

Samsara is shot in Ladakh, India, an absolutely beautiful location reminiscent of Tibet. It is mostly set in a rural village where a small community makes a modest living harvesting grain and spinning wool. The movie follows Tashi's "spiritual journey" and like SEX & ZEN before it asks the question "Is it better to satisfy 1000 desires or to conquer one?". It leaves the answer to this pretty open, and I have to say I side with the satisfaction plan personally. I was pleased that the movie touched on an aspect of the Buddhist origin story that is usually glossed over - Siddharta's abandoning of his wife and child to seek enlightenment always seemed shockingly irresponsible to me.

The film is low on dialogue, high on very nice images of stunning locations. Not very much happens, but it looks good. Christy Chung is in her new found 'mature' mode again: i.e. she gets naked and sweaty quite a bit (though there is a credit for "Ms. Chung's body double" that perhaps explains why her breasts didn't look familiar in the close-ups). Lead actor Shawn Ku looks a little too much like Keanu Reeves for my liking, and probably suffered unfairly from revulsion by association.

If you're planning to watch Samsara, make sure you have something to think about (or even do) whilst you're watching, because there are plenty of times when your mind is not really occupied and it will need somewhere to wander.

My overall rating for Samsara would have to be "mixed". I enjoyed watching it somewhat, but found it in no way life altering or profound - though many apparently have.