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Wheel of Time | Review

Dalai Lama 101

The sort of cinematic trip that boggles the mind.

German filmmaker Werner Herzog certainly shows no signs of slowing down in his filmmaking career with his newest documentary, which concerns the true determination in humanity and about spiritual guidance. After a lifetimes work of showing some powerful imagery and sharing some powerful ideas it is the Dalai Lama who get the deluxe treatment with the sort of documentary that only acknowledges the sacrifice of one massive pilgrimage.

Take a second to imagine the longest distance you had to cover in order to meet up with someone, now imagine that instead of using a car or plane to this meeting point you had to walk. Now imagine that during that covered distance for every step you took you had to kneel down and embrace the soul. Now imagine that it took you 3 and ½ years time to get to that rendezvous. Wheel of Time is an intimate look into the unimaginable and unthinkable compassionate effort from those who follow the faith of the Dalai Lama. Here the German filmmaker and a crew of cameramen give us complete access to the Buddhist Kalachakra Initiation, a sort of gathering from all of those who practice the faith which brings people from every corner of the world to this one place under a tree. With the camera as our guide, we are treated to various ritual ceremonies that take place during this once a year event, but it is the personal anecdotes that flabbergast the most.

Such as the ritual but forth into making the beautifully woven map with colored grains of sand, Wheel of Time contains an acute sense of detail in the treatment of its images and does so without passing judgment, I loved how the film captures the details in the faces and the parallel to the beautiful imagery from sacred mountain of Kailash in Tibet. The narration is matches the slow pace of the film, leaving the images speak for themselves. Herzog seems on a journey of his own here, his film Invincible looked at the higher power of one being and now this doc looks at one becoming the center of his own universe.

Rating 3.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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