Watching Baraka – by director Ron Fricke

If man sends another Voyager to the distant stars and it can carry only one film on board, that film might be “Baraka.” It uses no language, so needs no translation. It speaks in magnificent images, natural sounds, and music both composed and discovered. It regards our planet and the life upon it. It stands outside of historical time.

This was not the first time that I have seen the film Baraka. There were several scenes that stuck with me from previous viewings–the chicken factory and the Balinese monkey chanting. The images have mixed with memories of similar experiences and this has created a dream déjà vu like quality in watching the film again. The general quality of the images and sound are so epic and hauntingly familiar–I love to imagine myself exploring the ancient sacred spaces in particular.

For me the audio resembled various body noises. It’s breath, a stream of water, a rush of blood, and the pumping of the heart. The sounds help to weave together the mechanical and the organic visuals by highlighting a theme of repetition-or what I could describe as the sounds of mother earth’s life. Without the sound patterns the visual themes would be less noticeable. With the sound it’s easier to notice the rhythmic beat in very dissimilar visual scenes-such as a similarity between stop and go city traffic and a tribal ceremony involving jumping up and down.

The sound also plays with my perception of scale. I can begin to imagine the vastness of Mother Nature when I hear and see her veins as large rushing rivers. The variety of environments on earth shown in the film seems impossibly diverse–and expands my sense of the scale of the earth that can support such simultaneous diversity. I am dumbfounded by the juxtaposition of images and similarity of sound between the rush of a waterfall and the rush of oil fields on fire.

Baraka seems, in many ways, a very traditional or academic film due to the emphasis on technical image, editing, and sound quality. This fact is really emphasized when compared to the gonzo like journalistic clips from millions of phone cameras that make up much of youtube’s video content.

To me the non-verbal and visually stunning experience resembles a child like state and combines a unique blending of the inner and outer worlds. So for me place, in these films, feels more like a period of time. It’s a primal place that I am witnessing from a primal state. The place is timeless and eternal – a place that is impersonal and collective where the boundaries of inner and outer are fuzzy.

I wonder, are we reaching a time when phone cameras can be powerful enough to capture similarly rich images? Image maybe, but sound not at all. You can now record 4K videos on your iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus with the Ultrakam 4K app. I read this quote recently;

So, given a myriad of reasons that one might want to capture images using analogue technology, I put the question to Harris directly – provided that the projection systems are properly calibrated and there are competent operators at the controls, what are the advantages of projecting 70mm versus 4K. He responded bluntly, “None that I can think of.” – source