MPI // 1992 // 97 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // November 20th, 2008
A world beyond words.
Baraka is a truly unique film experience. A documentary, film essay, and art film in one, it transcends all of those genres to offer the most coherent, fascinating, and challenging view of humanity and nature that I have ever seen on film. It offers no narration and no dialogue, choosing instead to simply film people and nature in stunning 70mm, bringing together footage from every continent on the world. As such, the message of the film is never clear, but instead uses its beauty to allow you to contemplate human nature, evolution, poverty, environmentalism, and the industrial revolution.
By this point, I don't have much to say about the film itself. Baraka has become quite well known over time, as a unique visual experience that has many things to say about humanity, nature, and life. While some people find it just a little too interested in the exotic, focusing on the differences between people than similarities, I think it offers a fascinating and genuine look into cultural difference. It's probably one of those films that will play differently for each person who watches it. This footage is so varied and unique that it almost defies description. It is certainly about environmentalism and the impact of humanity, but it's also about culture and religion, the chaos of the modern industrial world and a reminder of what the world must have been like before it became what it is now. Most people with some patience, I expect, will get much out of its beautiful images and thought-provoking content.
It's rare to see recent productions that were filmed on 70mm stock, and the result is truly spectacular. The detail on this print is stunning, and this is the first film that has been transfered to digital at the 8k resolution. While I realize that's technical mumbo-jumbo to most people, the difference is immediately apparent. This is a great looking transfer, perhaps as good as I have seen on DVD. Of course, only some of that quality can be represented in standard definition, and I'm sure that the Blu-Ray release will be a much better representation of this high-quality digital transfer. Still, it's possible to see a clear difference between this and the original DVD transfer. The detail levels are truly remarkable, there is absolutely no compression to be seen, the colors are vivid and the motion is completely flawless.
The sound is also impressive. There is a choice here between a Dolby 5.1 track, as well as a rare DTS 96/24 track. The Dolby track sounds solid, but the DTS track is a much better option if your receiver is able to decode it. The separation is truly impressive, and the moments when the LFE track kicks in with thunder or deep drums have a surprising depth. Each channel is used to great effect, making this a great demo disc for sound as well. The second disc has only two special features, but each is significant. There is a restoration demo, exploring the unique method that allowed the production team to digitize the original negative at the highest possible resolution, as well as a near-feature length documentary on the production of the film. Both are worth checking out for fans of Baraka.
In all, this release is an easy recommendation for some people. If you have yet to own a copy of Baraka, and have no intention to upgrade to high-def anytime soon, get a hold of this edition as soon as possible. If you already own the other DVD release, however, I'm not sure this is worth the upgrade -- the old edition looks quite good as well. If you are planning to get a Blu-Ray player in the near future, hold off and get this new print in a format that really shows it off, though. While an 8k transfer is really awesome, it can only make so much difference in standard definition. This is a film that deserves to be displayed with as much detail as possible. Either way, it remains a film that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.
Review content copyright © 2008 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.20:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English, (96/24))
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Production Featurette
* Restoration Demo
* Official Site