Can lightning strike twice? There may be no better person to ask than Mark Magidson, the producer of Samsara.
He probably not only knows the circumstances in which lightning is most likely to strike twice, but also the most beautiful location in which you will see it happen and the best camera angle from which to capture it.
He has succeeded in recapturing explosive, unexpected cinema energy with Samsara, the follow-up to Baraka, the 1992 documentary that went from art-house success to smash hit, watched
''What's happened over the years is somehow [Baraka] has built a following worldwide,'' Magidson says. ''When you travel and hear how many people know the film, it is gratifying. Our goal is to try and provide a connection when people view it, so you feel a connection, and an interconnection, with the phenomenon of life around the world, and I think it's been a success in that way generally.''
The film was remarkable at the time for presenting 90 minutes of entirely non-verbal, captivating imagery from around the world. Samsara achieves the same for 100 minutes.
Where Baraka pondered patterns within our planet, Samsara, a Tibetan word that means birth, death and rebirth, is more focused on the impermanence of all things. Its visuals are stunning, its imagery mesmerising, and the thought and meaning contained within it profound. It is also a darker film, because, as Magidson points out: ''I think Samsara has a lot more disturbing imagery in it than Baraka did.''
There is one scene, for example, in which a classroom savaged by natural disaster is portrayed with such gorgeous cinematography that it becomes a thing of beauty, with mud-caked microscopes and weather-savaged furniture.
Magidson confirms it was a New Orleans school destroyed by hurricane Katrina: ''It was eerie being in there. It is a perfect impermanence metaphor. That was the very first shoot we took on Samsara. It was about 15 or 16 months after [Katrina]. The buildings had not been levelled yet. They were shortly after, so we were lucky to get in there right before it got bulldozed.''
The scene concludes with a close-up on the spine of a mud-encrusted book - The Land That Allah Forgot - a title that would seem intentionally provocative if included in any other film, but which Magidson says was happenstance. ''It was just something that was just there and we thought the shot worked,'' he says. ''It does potentially allow speculation as to why it's in there and I guess I'm glad you asked because I can just tell you it wasn't in there for any particular reason.''
For a film that so pointedly invites viewers to project meaning on visuals, Magidson says he works to ensure there is no politics in his films. ''We're not making value judgments about anything, we're trying not to say good or bad, or right or wrong, but you want to really get to the essence of the subject matter,'' he says, a surprising claim regarding a film that contains visceral imagery of food consumption alongside graphic portrayal of the processing of animals into meat.
''We're trying to present imagery that is consistent with the themes of Samsara, that is, impermanence.
It does potentially allow speculation as to why it's in there and I guess I'm glad you asked because I can just tell you it wasn't in there for any particular reason.
''The [only] other criteria for choice of imagery is imagery that is visual in nature. You want to find spectacularly visual imagery that fits with the themes of impermanence and the interconnection of everything.''
Despite a five-year production schedule and the complexities of shooting on 70-millimetre film, not every scene was planned to the last frame.
One incredible shot of a pair of women in burqas standing in front of a poster gratuitously advertising men's underwear was a happy accident. ''We were actually in a subway in Paris with a hidden camera,'' Magidson says. ''We had a camera in a suitcase with a hole cut out of it.
''When you're really putting yourself out there and immersed in these locations, things happen. Sometimes really good things happen - sometimes you get blown out by weather - but you have your share of those moments.''
Samsara opens on Wednesday.