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December 2003 - Nr. 12


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"Wheel of Time"
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MOMA Film Fest

Werner Herzog’s
"Wheel of Time"

   TWIG - German director Werner Herzog’s new film "The Wheel of Time" follows the 12-day course of one of Buddhism’s most important ceremonies — with video footage that literally peers over the shoulder of the Dalai Lama.

Despite being banned from filming in Tibet by the Chinese authorities, Herzog has captured some of the most intimate portraits of Tibetan Buddhism’s highest living authority and the ceremonial rituals that he oversees.

The film chronicles the days-long right of passage into Buddhism through the Kalachakra ceremony, which involves 18 monks working non-stop for 18 hours a day. Kalachakra means "wheel of time," the name of Herzog’s film.

During the ceremony in the film, young monks create a design of colored sand under the very tree where the Buddha was enlightened. After 12 days of intricate work where 772 deities and symbols are created, the Dalai Lama arrives and destroys the design with a wave of his hand. He than disperses the sand in a nearby river to symbolize the temporality of life.

Herzog filmed the Buddhist pilgrims in the Austrian community of Graz, in the Himalayas, and on top of a snow-covered mountain in Tibet.

The film has already been met with great praise in Germany, where the Dalai Lama’s books are often bestsellers. "Through the almost monstrous presence of his camera, Herzog is extraordinarily successful at imbuing the film with the great spirituality, dignity, and humility of the believers and their actions," one critic said.

Herzog, who is best known throughout Germany for the auteur character of his films in the late 1960s and 70s and for his work with actor Klaus Kinski, said that the goal of his film was not to promote religious conversion, but to reiterate one aim of the Dalai Lama himself.

"Study Buddhism, delve into its thought processes…but stay in the religion of your upbringing. Getting to know other ways — especially the religious practices of others — is the only lasting guarantee for the sustainment of peace," his holiness is known to have said.


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