My introduction to the Hare Krishna movement came through pop culture lampooning the faith that emerged as a force in the late ‘60s in movies like Airplane! and Dawn of the Dead. That skewering of the Hare Krishna movement never strayed from my thoughts which was why I was curious about the documentary from director John Griesser (with co-director Jean Griesser and Lauren Ross), Hare Krishna! The Mantra, the Movement and the Swami who Started it All. Maybe this film would allow some new insight into the religious movement that captivated people like The Beatles’ George Harrison. There aren’t many new insights to be gained from Hare Krishna! It’s a poorly made documentary that leans heavily on stock footage and inadvertently illustrates just how hollow the philosophy built around the mantra really is.
Srila Prabhupada came to New York City from India at the age of 70 in 1965. As the hippie movement was gaining steam and the dark side of drugs and excess began to take hold, Prabhupada attempted to preach his sermon of anti-materialism as well as peace and love. Over time, the swami was able to amass a massive following of young white kids who were disillusioned with the drug-fueled aspects of the hippie movement. Through records and books and the eventually adoption by certain pop culture figures, Hare Krishna became a worldwide movement with temples erected worldwide.
One thing that stands out in this documentary is just how apprehensive Greisser is to give any depth to the philosophy that led to this movement. Either the director is unwilling to explore the aspects of the faith or there’s simply nothing more than rather bland platitudes about materialism and love. There’s nothing within Hare Krishna! to dissuade any notion of the Hare Krishnas as comedy fodder, with countless old hippies interviewed with each adopting a new name with Indian roots, something woefully tone deaf and unintentionally hilarious.
Whether Hare Krishna or countless other movements, a notion that somehow Indian and far Eastern culture holds these secret truths that just aren’t available in the Western world has taken root since the ‘60s and there’s really nothing to back it up. Hare Krishna! The Mantra, the Movement and the Swami who Started it All only proves that any elderly Indian man could’ve easily convinced hordes of hippies to follow him and doesn’t really have to have much more than a catchy mantra and not any introspective philosophical elements. It wouldn’t be so bad if Hare Krishna! failed to bring depth to its subject, but putting an audience through a movie this hollow that is probably about 60% stock footage is an unforgivable sin of cinema.
Hare Krishna! The Mantra, the Movement and the Swami Who Started It All
- Overall Score
Haphazardly constructed on over-reliant on stock footage, Hare Krishna! The Mantra, the Movement and the Swami who Started it All doesn’t bring any depth to the story of the religious movement but only proves how hollow the movement is beyond its mantra and platitudes.