6 January 2006 | dbborroughs
A good document/meditation on twin Buddhist ceremonies
This is the story of the Buddhist initiation ceremonies held in 2002 in India and in Austria during which elaborate sand mandalas (the Wheel of Time of the title) were created. In India we see how half a million pilgrims come from what ever means was at their disposal to come and see the Dalai Lama and be blessed, while in Austria a few thousand people attended the ceremonies.
Difficult to adequately explain fully, the film, part document of the events, part meditation on them and on larger ideas. It is a film that beautifully shows how one religion can transcend place and time. It attempts to show us the length to which the pilgrims will go in order to travel down the path to enlightenment. Since this is a trip that is only really traveled deep inside oneself Werner Herzog keeps his camera ever moving over the landscape of the people who are trying to find nirvana. We are forever looking at the faces of those deep in prayer and meditation as if we might be able to find some clue as to what is going on deep with in each persons soul. It becomes a mediation on meditation.
For the most part this film works wonderfully. It manages to give some clue into the very nature of what the ceremonies are all about. We are also drawn into a contemplative and meditative state that seems akin or to approximate those of some of the pilgrims. While certainly not the real thing it is enough to give one a feel for deep thought.
I do have one problem with the film, and its a minor one, in the central section the film seems to wander about too much with some of the pilgrims. Its a personal thing but I was not as enthralled with the journey to the sacred mountain, and I did get a bit tired of prostrating monks. Its a minor thing, but it decreased my enjoyment of the film ever so slightly.
Still this is good film that is a must see for anyone who is interested in Buddhism or the varieties of religious experience. For those who want to see a slice of life thats not in their neighborhood, I also recommend it. 7 out of 10 because the reaction to it will as varied as the audience.