Baraka (Fricke, 1992) is a wordless documentary shot on 70mm film. The cinematography is beautiful, it blows my mind that it’s over 20 years old (the remastered version is so fresh).
A couple of my favourite sequences…
Wordless documentaries leaves their stories open to interpretation, the audience is free to choose how they want to understand it. Nothing is told, everything is inferred.
Baraka is about the human condition, a kind of anthropological natural history. It speaks to our quest for meaning and understanding, which derives from the same fear of the unknown that drives the obsession with dystopia.
We, as individuals and societies, are desperate to be special, to be important. To create something that will change the world and last forever. But really we’re insignificant, a blip on the history of earth. Not much elevates us above the animals that we farm.
We, as humans, never really change. Our technology has advanced and the tools that we use have changed, but the core of who we are has stayed the same.
The Aboriginal Australians have marked themselves with the same clay for thousands of years, but now they use a modern, plastic comb to apply it. Same practice, different tool. Other images hint at the same theme; an ancient rice paddy is juxtaposed with a modern quarry; a heavily tattooed Japanese man is followed by a shot of a painted Aboriginal South American child.
My favourite shot of the film is the very last one. A tree in the desert under a starlit sky. The camera rotates and the tree comes to life before our eyes, growing and changing in unexpected and strange ways.
Fricke, R., (1992) Baraka, Magidson Films