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Wheel of Time (2003)Wheel of Time (2003)

           I like to watch most anything by the documentarian Werner Herzog, and Wheel of Time was no exception. This film finds him in Bodh Gaya, India, where tradition has it that the Buddha first found enlightenment 2,500 years ago under the bo tree. Every few years a half million Buddhist pilgrims travel to Bodh Gaya for a sacred rite convened by the Dalai Lama called the Kalachakra ("Wheel of Time"). The pilgrims come from near and far, many by foot, making prostrations the length of the body the entire trip. One monk from Tibet took three years to travel the 3,000 miles, genuflecting the entire way. Others will make 100,000 of these prostrations once they arrive, a rite that takes six weeks. Central to the series of religious activities is a "mandala" or sculpture made of colored sands that the monks craft from a large stencil. The intricate work of art is destroyed after the rites, the sand returned to the earth, a symbol that all is transitory. In one scene the pilgrims circumambulate the 25 mile base of Mount Kailash (22,000 feet). Wheel of Time has less narration than other Herzog documentaries, leaving you to wonder what some of the throngs of worshippers are doing. Herzog is also much more circumspect with his typical critique. But the combination of color, scenery, history, religion, culture, and language make this a very good if not great film.

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