March 19, 2012
Rare documentary about magical healing in the Himalayas. Directed by Michael Oppitz and narrated in part by William S. Burroughs.
The film explores in fascinating detail the Great Inner Asian Tradition of shamanism, as preserved in the secluded society of the Northern Magar in Central West Nepal. Part One focuses on the sumptuous rituals performed by the Magar shamans during their night-long seances. Their methods of diagnosis and treatment, their techniques of possession and their ritual journeys, undertaken to recover the fugitive souls of their patients, are all encoded in a rich, symbolic language of signs and gestures. Part Two concentrates on the transmission of the shaman's profession; following successive tests of aptitude and initiation rites, a shaman (male or female) is born on a conifer tree, the tree of life, during a lavish three-day ceremony. West German filmmaker Michael Oppitz (who dedicates his film to Maya Deren) attempts to recreate the ethnographer's experience visually: what are at first seemingly incomprehensible images and sequences gradually take on meaning as the takes become longer and the film approaches real time. Mythical songs, in which all present-day activities of Magar healers are codified, are at the core of Magar religious life and determine its ethos, which in essence is epic.
Posted by Stiles