You may define your own banner on the settings page.
FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
Dave Chua
Brandon Wee
Wong Lung Hsiang
Felix Cheong
Foong Ngai Hoe
Adrian Sim
Chris Khoo
O Thiam Chin
Lau Chee Nien
Ambient Noise
Sarhan Rashid
Ying Wuen
Ellery Ngiam
Toh Hai Leong
Toh Hai Leong, Auteur
Wong Kar Wai
The Seduction of Wong Kar Wai
Tsai Ming Liang
Lav Diaz
Mikio Naruse
Leslie Cheung
Jonathan Foo Interview
Chinese Ghosts
Assassins in Asian FIlms
Sex in Asian Cinema
Erotic Cinema of the Shaw Studios
Homosexuality in Chinese Films
My Left Eye Sees Creativity
Hollywood Remakes
Comic Book Superheroes
One League of Social Consciousness
Emerging Trends in East Asian Cinema
Postwar Korean Cinema
Decline of Hong Kong Cinema before 1997
Rise of Afghan Films
Singapore's Mini Cinema
Creating A Singapore Cinema
Why Cinema is Important to Singapore
Singapore Film Industry
Rites of Passage
Replying to Critics
Daniel Yun Interview
Singapore International Film Festival
Bangkok International Film Festival
Tokyo International Film Festival
Toronto International Film Festival
Writer's Block
All Tomorrow's Parties
And Also the Eclipse
Another Heaven
At Five in the Afternoon
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Bangkok Haunted
Barking Dogs Never Bite
Batang West Side
Battle Royale
Bear Hug
Beautiful Boxer
Beijing Rocks
Bend It Like Beckham
Best of Times
Betelnut Beauty
Big Durian
Big Shot's Funeral
Bird Man Tale
Blissfully Yours
Blue Kite
Bounce Ko Gals
Brighter Summer Day, A
Cafe Lumiere
Cat Returns
Chinese Odyssey 2002
City of Glass
City Sharks
Color of the Truth
Color Blossoms
Confucian Confusion
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Dark Water
Destination 9th Heaven
Divine Intervention
Double Vision
Dumlings: 3 Extremes
Enter the Phoenix
Era of Vampire, The
Eye, The
Eye 2, The
Eye 10, The
Fat Choy Spirit
Floating Weeds
Fog of War, The
Formula 17
Full Alert
Ghost in the Shell
God or Dog
Golden Chicken
Golden Chicken 2
Goodbye, Dragon Inn
Guru, The
Hana-Bi (Fireworks)
Harold and Kumar
Hidden Blade, The
House of Flying Daggers
House of Fury
House of Sand and Fog
Howl's Moving Castle
I Not Stupid
In the Mood for Love
Infernal Affairs
Infernal Affairs III
Innocence: Ghost in the Shell 2
Iron Ladies 2
Isle, The
Jan Dara
Jealousy is My Middle Name
Joint Security Area
Ju-On: The Grudge (2003)
July Rhapsody
Korban Fitnah
Kung Fu Hustle
Lan Yu
Last Life in the Universe
Last Samurai, The
Legend of Zu, The
Liang Po Po
Love Letter
Lucky Number
Marry a Rich Man
Me Thao
Medallion, The
Monrak Transistor
Moveable Feast, A
Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
Musa the Warrior
My Left Eye Sees Ghosts
My Neighbors The Yamadas
My Sassy Girl
Naked Weapon
Name of a River, The
New Police Story
Nobody Knows
Nobody Knows How to be a Film Critic
One Leg Kicking
Perfect Blue
Phone, The
Ping Pong
Pirated Copy
Princess D
River, The
Road Home
Romance of Book and Sword
Runaway Pistol
S Diary
S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine
Scent of Green Papaya
Seoul Raiders
Seventeen Years
Shall We Dance?
Shanghai Knights
Shaolin Soccer
Singapore Gaga
Skywalk is Gone
So-Called Friends
So Close
Someone Special
Song of the Stork
Spider Forest
Spirited Away
Spring Summer Fall Winter Spring
Stories About Love
Storm Riders
Summer Holiday
Sumpah Pontianak
Super Size Me
Surprise Party
Swing Girls
Tale of Two Sisters, A
Tears of the Black Tiger
Teenage Textbook Movie
This Charming Girl
Three: Extremes
Tokyo Raiders
Touch, The
Tree, The
Truth or Dare
Twelve Storeys
Twenty-Four Eyes
Twins Effect
Twins Effect 2
Virgin Stripped Bare by her Bachelors
Visitor Q
Volcano High
Warriors of Heaven and Earth
Way Home, The
Welcome Back Mr McDonald
Wesley's Mysterious File
When I Fall In Love With Both
Wishing Stairs
Wolves Cry Under the Moon
Woman is the Future of Man
Women's Private Parts
World Without Thieves, A
Zombie Dog
A Time to Live A Time to Die
e-mail me




Reviewed by Lau Chee Nien

Director: Pan Nalin
Cast: Shawn Ku, Christy Chung
Genre: Drama
Country: India, France
Language: Ladakhi
Year Released: 2001
Runtime: USA 138 min, Germany 145 min

The Plot in Brief: A young monk experiences sexual awakening, and renounces his life in the monastery to experience live away from it for the first time in his life.

The local theatrical version is listed as 120 minutes although two other longer versions are also listed on Internet Movie Database (IMDb) - one at 145 minutes, and another at 138 minutes. These were, I presume, versions screened at film festivals. That aside, I do wonder what might have been trimmed from the commercial release version.

And I am curious about what might have been trimmed out. Because parts of the editing in the film were uneven. And the film felt long. In particular, the beginning scenes. I do wonder what the extra 25 minutes left out was - grass blowing in the wind? Scenes from the monastery? Or some sex scene?

Frankly speaking, the sex scenes were my most favorite things in this film. Shawn Ku and Christy Chung locking lips provided some of the hottest moments on screen for me. And what was that with the Kamasutra stunt later on in the film? I don't think I'd try that one myself...

Anyway, the main problem I find with this film is the narration. Events, plots and issues raised in the film do not connect well, tend to be flat, and the ending lacked a punch which I felt was not there because I did not care for the protagonist at the end.

The pacing of the film is perhaps a little too slow, especially at the beginning. The pace picked up somewhat once the protagonist begins life away from the monastery. The first part already failed to engage me, so the second part had to work harder to sustain my interest. But the second part also failed for me because was superficial and flat. Samsara is an epic in the sense that it covers a long period of time in a character's life. It is ambitious and tries to show all the parts that make up the sum of the protagonist's spiritual quest. Not an easy task, as the parts may end up appearing shallow. And Samsara falls into this trap.

Were there good points to this film? Yes. Visually, there is the beautiful Himalayan landscape of Ladakh to behold. There are also postcard depictions of the people living on the land. In terms of narrative, the director manages to convey the purpose of most scenes with clarity and simplicity. He brings life to the moments in these scenes. Therefore, it is truly unfortunate that the strengths do not link up to form a well-knitted story.

In terms of performance, Shawn Ku had a difficult part to play. I think he did not pull it off al that well. Furthermore, the script provided very few moments for the audience to understand or like his character. I also felt that the actor lacked a strong screen presence in this film. Christy Chung was more than adequately competent, but she was not playing the protagonist.

I went to watch this film with little expectations but still found it lacking. It did however, provide me with lots to think about after watching it. It is not a bad film. The technical aspects of the film are adequate and competent. The director appears to have a clear story to tell. It is just that the story does not offer enough depth. And the narrative was also not executed in a manner that infused the film with strength.

Verdict: Not Really Recommended.