Baraka (1992)
MPI Home Video
Extras: Documentary

When I first saw the announcements for MPI Home Video’s "Baraka" I had some difficulties figuring out, exactly what to expect. I was very intrigued by the pictures from the film that came with the press material and the adventurous description of this film that takes you around the world.

Now, the disc is here and I have finally been able to see for myself, what "Baraka" really is. It is a magical film that takes you around the world. Part documentary, part art, "Baraka" is best described as a 100 minute experience that visits stunning locations and captures them with breathtaking images. It is not a movie, and it is not a documentary in terms of practical education. However, it is highly educational in that it shows us some of the most beautifully enchanting places on Earth. Over a 13 month period, the filmmakers of "Baraka" have visited 24 countries and hand picked locations with a personality. Then they set about to capture their often majestic magic on film, to show the world, how unique and poetic these locations are. These images are then combined with a phenomenal musical score that emphasizes the pictures and makes the film a truly unique, and peacefully mesmerizing experience.

The film takes you into the jungle of Borneo, to the streets Kalkutta’s, over the burning oil fields in Kuwait, into the Peruvian jungle, the Himalayas, the desert of Australia and right into the busy heart of Hong Kong. It captures the pulse of each of the locations and holds on to it in visually striking images, before inviting the viewer over into yet another world. Snow capped mountains, praying Buddhist priests, and gigantic production facilities where people flock like chicken, create contrasts that are stimulating and very poetic.

"Baraka" has been shot entirely on 70 mm film for the best possible image quality. The result is an image that is virtually free of noise or grain. The DVD nicely reproduces the film’s visual qualities, but unfortunately contains some signs of compression in the form of slight <$pixelation,pixelation> and ringing. As a result the level of detail in the transfer is not quite as good as it could be if MPI had chosen to use a higher datarate to compress the material on this disc. The double-sided disc contains the film’s 2.35:1 <$PS,widescreen> version in a non-<$16x9,anamorphic> presentation on one side, and a <$PS,pan & scan> transfer on the other. The transfer is clear and color reproduction is very good and I found it very faithful. Many of the colors are bold without over-saturation, making some of the stunning land- and naturescapes even more beautiful.

This release from MPI Home Video also contains a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack, and I was completely overwhelmed buy its quality and transparency. It makes good use of the entire audio spectrum, including a surprisingly strong bass extension. The surrounds are included in the mix of the soundtrack to create a truly engulfing surround experience throughout the 108-minute film. Perfectly timing some of the music with the images, and masterfully combining ethnical and musical elements from the parts of the world we see at any one time, the soundtrack is a monumental piece of music that thematically travels around the world, just as the film does.

The DVD of "Baraka" also contains a short documentary with interviews by the filmmakers that helps understand their intention a little better. They explain what they tried to achieve and how they ultimately went about achieving it. From that perspective, I would almost recommend watching this short featurette before the actual feature presentation. It will help you wrap your brain around the film’s general idea much better.

"Baraka" is a magnificent journey without any words. Let the music and the images envelop your senses and simply sit back to enjoy the experience. It is hard to describe the serenity and peacefulness of this film, and it really has to be seen to be understood.
Make sure to check this disc out some time. It is very different from anything I have seen in a long time.