Out on DVD and VOD from 9th February 2015 from Dogwoof, Manakamana is a stunningly original cinematic experience. The film follows pilgrims as they make a journey to an ancient Nepalese temple by way of cable car to worship.
The journey up and down takes a total of 11 minutes, therefore the directors Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez, take the approach of positioning a stationary 16mm camera in front of the varying commuters.
From an ageing grandfather and his grandson, to a young married couple, to a trio of elderly women who tellingly comment on how much things have changed, 'It used to take me three days to get up here'; to a herd of goats. The first half of the film follows people going up, and the second half follows travellers going down with an eventual selection of passengers to book end the film.
Some critics have commented on the cyclical nature of the cable car being documented in this film, whereas I would prefer the more appropriate gesture of the film being literally about how life can be up and down, and how easy it is to forget to enjoy the ride.
Reminiscent of artistic installations but another step forward in the work offered by James Bening (13 Lakes/ RR) this film is nevertheless just as meditative in forcing the audience to accept the period of quiet and contemplation in a dark space.
At the start of every 11 minute segment, there is a moment of dark when the cable car is being loaded up with next passengers and as it pushes out into the light we are blinded by the light and then have to adjust to the new characters presented towards us; these changes initiate a response in the audience to participate in the journey. Sometimes though the journey is reward in itself.
This is an intelligent movie that coupled with stunning landscape cinematography must be seen to be believed.
Manakamana is out on DVD and VOD from Dogwoof from Monday 9th February