Film Review Baraka by Ron Fricke (1992)

Essay by juliaver March 2004

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Baraka directed by Ron Fricke (1992)

The title is a Sufi word that means 'blessing' and this is very appropriate as there are many images of people from all walks of life who pray and reveal their spirituality in one form or another. The images of nature at the film's beginning of snow-capped mountains and wheeling birds are backed by spiritual music which includes a flute. The snow monkey soaking itself in a hot spring appears to be meditating, then tribes of natives in prayer somewhere in Asia, Aborigines in Australia, and the Israelis at the Wailing Wall,. and so on. Many of these images are shown later, revealing a change in perspective, for example the Israeli soldier with gun in hand, wearing prayer shawl, praying at the Wall, thus creating meaning for the audience, that life is a paradox. Another way of presenting a change in perspective is through the use of juxataposition.

We see skyscraper buildings of New York and an aerial view of the traffic and pedestrians. The camera is sped up and the people racing in all directions suggests that we're going nowhere fast, symbolising a rat race; this is reinforced by the next frame of people who are filling the pews in a church, and once again the camera is sped up to show the church emptying fast--thus suggesting that people haven't the time for religion or spirituality. A change in perspective through the various ways of living, all over the globe is interspersed with magnificent views of nature--some being peaceful, such as the moon, stars, sun, waterfall and others, dangerous, such as icy mountain tops and volcanic craters. Shots of homeless families on city streets and unsmiling people posing for the camera create a mournful tone. Factory workers are also shown, for example...