talking with spirits: film review...

Please find the link to the Empire Online coverage of Talking With Spirits -http://www.empireonline.com/festivalsandseasons/
I enclose the review for your interest. I hope you find it respectful and warmly impressed.

David P

Confirming Hamlet's contention thatthere are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in the average philosophy, Michael Wiese's Talking With Spirits is a personal and highly specialised insight into the Balinese concept of Niskala or the `unseen world'. Accompanied by shaman-philosopher Alberto Roman, Wiese returns to the villages he has visited periodically since the 1960s to seek spiritual enlightenment and a possible cure for the Parkinson's Disease that is limiting the use of his hands.

The generosity of the priests and healers to share their secrets is astonishing and Wiese amassed over 20 hours of unique footage. On his arrival, he had the project blessed by high priest Ida Bagus Aji and took advice from performing arts master I Wayan Dibia, who appears throughout the film to explain the rituals and artistic significance of such talents as painter Dewa Nyoman Batuan, who excels in the sacred form of mandala, and Legong dancer
Ni Ketut Arini Alit, who teaches her students to attain through their movements the kind of trances described by psychiatrist Luk Ketut Suryani.
Bali played a key role in the evolution of the moving image and the ancient art of wayang kulit shadow puppetry is demonstrated by dalang Nyoman Sumandhi, who shows how he manipulates the intricately decorated puppets and changes his voices to tell stories of heroic rulers and malign forces. He also explains how he can channel spirits during his performances and this is even more powerfully exhibited in Jero Wining's ministration to a young man who had damaged his leg in a motorcycle accident and who is evidently moving with greater ease after a healing intervention.

As word spread of Wiese and Roman's visit, they were invited to witness such little-seen ceremonies as the reactivation of a Barong mask, which involves it being taken in procession from the temple altar to a graveyard for the gods to reinhabit it and bring blessings upon the people. While this rite works well, the priest in Kayukapas village near the Batur volcano is less successful in his use of holy puppets to entice the spirits into selecting a new medium for divine intercession from the two young girls submitted for their approval.

Following a meeting with Anak Agung Gede Putra Rangki - a prince in the royal lineage of an ancient Balinese kingdom who has built a palace in jungle according to traditional architectural principles - Wiese and Roman visit Madé Suwirya, who goes into a trance as Hanoman, the King of the White Monkeys, who, with help of Gusta Raka Suwamba, offers Wiese a cure for his condition and the openness of heart to see the workings of the spirits. This bears fruit in the remarkable final sequence, when the pair encounter Ibu Ayu Cantik, a market stallholder by day and dancer, spirit channel and healer by night. As she prepares to be interviewed on camera, she goes into a trance and becomes Quan Yin,

the embodiment of compassionate loving kindness, and she encourages Roman to enter a trance state and exhibit the characteristics of the Monkey King, while another develops the energy of a tiger. Even Wiese joins in as the dance intensifies and Ayu gives them a special blessing in an antechamber after the session ends with several of the faithful passing out when the music stops.

As his pilgrimage ends, Wiese reveals an increased mobility in his right hand and reaffirms his invitation to keep an open heart and mind in watching and meditating about the film so that viewers can learn and receive grace from what they have seen. The sceptical will be hard to convince. But for anthropologists and those already on Wiese'
s spiritual wavelength, this will prove compelling and inspiring.

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