Hippy stuff: ‘The Scream’ (1895), Baraka (1992) & Samsara (2011)

by waxnwings

I’m not an art (or Art?) aficionado. I wouldn’t venture to comment on artistic technique or the historical context and significance of a piece further than rudimentary information to be found on the Google. However I did just learnt that “The Scream” is actually the popular name given to any one of the four versions produced by Edvard Munch between 1893 and 1910 as part of a composition he called Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature). This one I think is crayon on cardboard, maybe a bit of felt-tip. Very hippy.

Like I said, not an aficionado.


Edvard Munch ‘Skrik’ (pastel version), 1895

One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The colour shrieked. This became The Scream.

~ Edvard Munch

But that’s not really the point of this post. Although that’s not so say that this post is supposed to argue for any particular point. Point made.

This is just the image that popped into my head when recently revisiting a scene from Samsara (2011, dir. Ron Fricke), a visual documentary whose theme is both ecological and humanitarian. Very hippy. Much like Munch’s Der Schrei der Natur, it screams. This is expressed most explicitly in the following incredibly evocative scene.

The video link below is worth watching beginning to end if you haven’t seen it, as the best description I can give here is “a man in an office rubbing clay on his face in a fetishistic manner and consequently experiencing a masochistic seizure”. But it’s a lot more than that. It’s eerily exhilarating, uncomfortable, even fearful.

Next up on the scream-podium is a short scene from Baraka (1992), once again an ecological/humanitarian themed visual documentary directed by Fricke. Whilst one would expect many thematic similarities from the same director working within such a niche genre, I think his portrayal of the “silent scream” is perhaps even more powerful than Samsara‘s “man in an office rubbing clay on his face in a fetishistic manner and consequently experiencing a masochistic seizure”.  Visually, it is also very similar to the ‘screaming’ figure featured in Munch’s The Scream of Nature composition.  Incredibly hippy.

The point? Like I said, there’s not any real particular point here beyond the most immediate discourse of the human/nature dichotomy vis-à-vis the problematic of modern technology and over-(human)-population. And perhaps also the less attended argument considering whether this even is a dichotomy should we stay incredulous toward metanarratives regarding what ‘human’ and ‘nature’ actually are in relation to the ‘natural’ and that oh-so romantic ideology concerning the ‘organic’. I, for one, am entirely sceptical. But that’s making a point. Let’s not go there…yet.

What this post aims to emphasise is not the ‘point’ (like I said: “there is no point” (I said that earlier), I’m not really keen to open the ecological/humanitarian can of worms; it’s too hippy) but an emphasis on the mode and imagery of expression. I just think it’s profoundly incredibly awesomely evocative. All of them. I wouldn’t be shy to wager there’s a level of intertextual reference between these scenes in Fricke’s documentaries and Munch’s Der Schrei der Natur in specific; it’s possible to propose their relationship with a modest level of textual analysis. The fact that they all reminded me of each other is somewhat self-evident, and in all honesty I didn’t even know that Fricke directed both Samasara and Baraka before writing this. Although it seems kind of obvious now.

Anyway I hope you enjoy the vids and let them freak you out a little. And I would say both documentaries are worth a watch, although I would recommend in conjunction with some form of recreational drug. Very hippy.

And just in case you didn’t get enough, here’s one last ‘Skream’ (a personal favourite of mine) to tide you over. Big up those who pick up on Sega’s Sonic The Hedgehog ‘coming up for air’ “woop wopp!” sample. Retrooooo.