When filmmakers are in the develop stage of their projects, they have specific ideas on what they want to present and how they will convey those messages to an audience. I often think about whether or not I have interpreted a film correctly and how frustrating it would be for a filmmaker if a viewer misunderstood the film’s sentiment.
Baraka (1992) is a documentary by Ron Fricke. What I enjoyed most about this film is the fact that there is no dialogue. I first saw Baraka when I was 16 years old with a close friend in the living room of her parent’s house. When the film ended we were so moved and filled with excitement with grand ideas to become vegans, shave our heads travel the world. Now, 10-ish years later, I have the opportunity to re-watch that same film in a class room setting in a foreign country – I am filled with excitement yet again. This time however, the excitement comes from me thinking “I know how you did that Fricke”.
For me, the saying ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ comes to mind when I try to analyse each sequence of Baraka. If you were to write out a plot summary of the film from beginning to end and show it to someone that had not yet seen the film, it would look like a completely random selection of moving images. Baraka really makes the viewer do a lot of the work when watching the film. You are forced to consider why each particular scene has been placed in front of the other. For instance, during the first 30 minutes of the film you are presented with images that fall under the certain theme. A theme of humans and nature in harmony: Fricke starts with nature (ice capped mountains), animals (monkeys in hot spring), and a few very old and traditional cultural groups of humans. Although Fricke doesn’t explicitly say it, this does set a starting point for the story ‘timeline’ for Baraka. Any scene presented after the 30-minute mark fall under a different theme. The secondary theme is confronting and seems to focus on human’s negative impact on nature, mainly overpopulation in metropolitan areas and greed and war.
That being said I also think that there was third and final theme of Baraka. At around the 1-hour 20-minute mark, the focus seems to shift from the planet earth. For example, the viewer is presented with time lapse footage and images from a desert. The final moments of the film were the most mind blowing for me. These images made me consider outer space and beyond Earth. Every images and sequence that was captured in Baraka is just from one planet, but when you compare it the vastness of the universe it all does seem quite insignificant.