'Darshan, the Embrace'


Darshan, the Embrace
Directed by Jan Kounen
IFC, opens July 26, IFC Center
 Darshan, the Embrace is the kind of artistic endeavor for which the word hagiography was invented: a documentary portrait of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, a Hindu leader who devotes her life to spreading inspiration, providing charity, and dispensing a famed spiritual embrace. At the film's climax, she hugs 45,000 admirers within a span of 21 hours. With no structure to speak of, the film documents Amma at work and interviews her breathless followers, along the way cherishing at length—albeit from a wide-eyed remove—the beauty of Hindu culture. Without explanatory narration, the impressionistic editing is likely to prove tedious for the uninitiated. Werner Herzog's Wheel of Time was, in a sense, the Buddhist equivalent of this film, as well as a more illuminating look at the power and transience of ritual.

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