Special Collector’s Edition/Anamorphic)
Picture: A- Sound:
B+ Extras: B Film: A
Voted one of the most-well
photographed films ever made by American Cinematographer Magazine, the powerful,
non-narrative film Baraka, from director/cinematographer
Ron Fricke, was first released in 1992 theatrically. Not only would it prove to be a journey
through various landscapes, countries, but also through sound and images it
would connect some sort of message. This
is especially effective, as the film was shot in 70mm. Many will see a few connections to Godfrey
Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (1983) or
that series in general. Of course the
main connection is that both films involve non-narratives, but also the fact
that Rob Fricke did the camera-work for Reggio and then decided to take over
the directing reigns for Baraka, but
also supplies the cinematography for his film as well.
The common mistake for
this type of film is to label it as a documentary, which I tend to feel
different about. The film contains no
dialogue and never attempt to document anything other than the subjects in
their natural surroundings. Nothing here
is staged, so therefore it qualifies as a documentary on that level, but at the
same time it tells a story in a non-conventional way by using images and sound
to formulate a response from the viewer.
We are transformed into the world it creates and captures. Therefore, we become the characters and play
the role in this film. The theme though
in this case is the environment, which was also the subject in Koyaanisqatsi, but unlike the ‘qatsi’
series Baraka stands behind the
environment. At first the qatsi series
seems to do the same, but with the recently released Naqoyqatsi that technology is inevitable and that the environment
does not stand a chance. The verdict is
that environment loses because with technology we have created a monster that
cannot go away because we rely on it to much.
In fact, The Matrix Reloaded
attempted to figure this out, but became lost in its own philosophy and poorly
shot fight sequences.
was shot in 70mm, actually it was done using the Todd-AO process, which is 65mm
using the remainder of the film stock for sound information. There have been a handful of films not too
long before Baraka’s release that
were shot in Todd-AO, but they were mostly the 35mm version (Todd AO 35) using
their fine lenses on productions like Flash
Gordon (1980), Conan the Barbarian
(1982) and Dune (1984). As far as 70mm goes though only Oklahoma! (1955), Around the World in 80 Days, South
Pacific (1957), Cleopatra
(1963), and 2001: A Space Odyssey
(1968) would be of an equal weight.
Needless to say that Baraka
was shot very well, but the question at hand is whether or not the DVD
recreates some of the astonishment.
Well, Baraka was initially
issued as a non-anamorphic DVD release, which was good considering some of the
detail issues that it had at times. The
DVD still looked better than most of what was on the marker, but this re-issue
clearly makes that previous DVD obsolete!
Here we are given a better approximation of what the potential for this
large format film is. Detail is sharp,
colors look very solid, and whites are naturally bright when appropriate. Blacks are deep, dark, but at times not
nearly as dark as they could be, but nothing major. The 2.20 X 1 anamorphic image is
near-reference quality giving all the fine details their value on screen. Notice early on in the film there is a monkey
in a small pond that has icicles hanging off its fur. The fur is super sharp while every tiny
crystal of the ice is noticed.
There are some slight
disappointing elements to the transfer from time to time. Some scenes appear to have some
edge-enhancement problems, such as the waterfall sequences and other scenes
have some haloing occurring from time to time.
Still this is a very noble purchase to simply show off its 70mm glory on
a format like DVD. It might be fair to
say that this is one of the better reproductions of 70mm on DVD standing next
to the Superbit Edition of Lawrence of
Arabia released from Columbia TriStar.
These both look much better than the re-released Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, another 70mm production from 1968, which
has detail issues, color problems, and does not hold up well despite being
issued onto DVD for a second time.
soundtrack is another standout feature with all original music provided by Dead
Can Dance, Lisa Gerrard, Brendan Perry, and Michael Stearns. Gerrard’s name sticks out the most especially
with the success of the Gladiator
score by Hans Zimmer featuring Gerrard.
The soundtrack for this DVD is a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix that is quite
nice. This is actually one of Dolby’s
better efforts of delivering the type of power and fidelity that should be on
this format. While the exclusion of DTS
audio is certainly a bummer, the Dolby at least gives a nice surround feel that
does some justice for the film. Again
this is a music-only film, so all channels are constantly active with enriching
For this re-release MPI
added a few bonuses along with a better transfer. There is a very thorough and interesting
“making of” that chronicles the production team as the go from location to
location in order to capture this material.
This gives a better understanding of the difficult task and why it took
a solid year to come up with these images for this film. Moving around the world is not cheap or
efficient in order to capture landscapes from high mountains to low valleys. However, this film works because certain
individuals were able to make the vision for this film a reality. There are interviews included as well, which
is also fantastic making this edition far superior to that previous disc.
You can read about
Fricke’s previous film Chronos on
HD-DVD at the following link:
- Nate Goss