Darshan, the Embrace

Showing at Northwest Film Forum, Fri., Sept. 1–Thurs., Sept. 7. Not Rated. 92 minutes.

This 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. BEN KENIGSBERG

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