Samsara (2006) Review


A brief review of the 2006 movie Samsara, explaining some essential things you need to know before watching it (Buddhist terms and cultural context).

Samsara is a movie filled with beauty, in all its aspects, deep and wide, so make sure to watch it with your spirit, because your eyes are guaranteed satisfaction anyway.

Samsara: Satisfy One Thousand Desires or Conquer Just OneThis is the first Tibetan movie I’ve ever seen. And it blew me away. Samsara is pure art, there is not much point in discussing the cast or the story. However, regarding the story, I think Westerners are prone to overlook an aspect that actually has paramount importance. This happens if the viewer ignores the main character’s starting predicament in the epic line, and lets themselves quickly become captivated by, an tangled in, the love and life story that follows.

Tashi had just completed a long term retreat in the Buddhist tradition, thus walking the path of Enlightenment, last walked by the Gautama Buddha Himself. At this point we are presented with the portrait of a Buddhist monk that appears to be very close to full Enlightenment, and at quite a distance from the ways of this wicked world.

It may be useful to point out right here that Samsara is the Sanskrit word describing the flow of existence in this illusory reality, life after life, during the seemingly endless cycle of rebirths. As with many Sanskrit terms, it is hard to simply try to translate them with just one English term — they mostly need entire definitions in order to be comprehended.

Samsara is this inescapable flow of existence that keeps all of us here, on this level of reality. All of us, except the Perfectly Enlightened ones that attained Nirvana (Nibbana, in the Pali language), the state of neither sensation or non-sensation, of neither craving, nor aversion, the place outside time and space. Samsara is the “river” to be crossed by the student of Enlightenment, and Mahayana (the Tibetan Buddhism sum of doctrines) is the (Great) Vessel that can cross this river. This is the point were Tashi stands at the beginning of he movie. He is a very dedicated and advanced Mahayana monk, which is something few people achieve, or are even willing to try — practically, a state of sainthood. This information is not directly communicated by the movie to the unaware viewer, that is why I humbly put it here, and it is required information, if we want to understand Tashi’s condition: he’s not just some bearded fellow who lived in a cave for some years. He is a very devoted Enlightenment seeker, in his people’s tradition, to such a degree that it became his way of life, who he is. And he is, by all means, a saint. We need to remember this, watching the rest of the movie.

All that follows is the result of Tashi’s surrender to temptation. I’ll not go into that. However, I will say that at this point, temptation is almost mystical in form and outcome, it seems to be the doorway to a more complete and previously missing experience of life, apparently compulsory before Enlightenment. Therefore, throughout the movie, do keep in mind that this is a story of a man on a sacred quest.

The scenery is magnificent, the characters are well played by beautiful people, and I don’t mean that literally. The film making is awesome, and has a sort of freshness that Hollywood has lost, or rather never had. Almost every scene is a visual feast. The soundtrack is also remarkable, very well tuned to the movie, very gentle and beautiful. The fact that dialogues are spoken in Tibetan contributes a great deal to the movie’s authenticity.

I really cannot find a single bad thing to say about Samsara. It is a piece of art and wisdom that I recommend you see as soon as possible.

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