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Wheel of Time (2003)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 30 October 2003 (Germany)
Wheel of Time is Werner Herzog's photographed look at the largest Buddhist ritual in Bodh Gaya, India.


Werner Herzog


Werner Herzog

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Credited cast:
The Dalai Lama ... Himself
Lama Lhundup Woeser Lama Lhundup Woeser ... Himself
Takna Jigme Sangpo Takna Jigme Sangpo ... Himself
Matthieu Ricard Matthieu Ricard ... Himself
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Madhureeta Anand Madhureeta Anand ... Himself
Tenzin Dhargye Tenzin Dhargye ... Himself
Ven. Geshe Ven. Geshe ... Himself
Werner Herzog ... Himself (voice)
Manfred Klell Manfred Klell ... Himself
Chungdak D. Koren Chungdak D. Koren ... Himself
Thupten Tsering Mukhimsar Thupten Tsering Mukhimsar ... Himself


Wheel of Time is Werner Herzog's photographed look at the largest Buddhist ritual in Bodh Gaya, India.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

buddhist | See All (1) »




Not Rated | See all certifications »



Germany | Austria | Italy


German | English | Tibetan

Release Date:

30 October 2003 (Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

Ajan pyörä See more »

Filming Locations:

Tibet, China See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby SR



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The Dalai Lama: All religions carry same message. Message of love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment, self-discipline. I think we need these qualities, irrespective of whether we are believer or non-believer, because these are the source of a happy life.
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User Reviews

Herzog showing a culture, in mass, in inner-peace, led by the guy to know most
30 March 2007 | by MisterWhiplashSee all my reviews

Wheel of Time is a curious documentary crucially because of someone from the West, like myself, being privy to traditional customs and ceremonial practices that seem like they could be coming from another world. But, as one soon learns, this curiosity is strong because it IS apart of this world, and maybe the truest moment of clarity from the Dalai Lama himself comes when he states how the universe is really not owned by one country or apart of one mountain or other, but is in how an individual conceives it- the universe, the center of it, is in you, or at least your projection of what it is, which is not something collective but ultimately is. It's a very wise statement that will keep me pondering it over for a long time. Likewise, the Kalachakra mandala becomes like a metaphor for this ideal, of hundreds of thousands of people coming together for the purpose of- aside from getting priceless words from the Dalai Lama- being at inner peace with oneself, hence the universe.

By the end of Wheel of Time I didn't know much more about Buddhism than I had going into it, which isn't any real fault on Herzog's end as a filmmaker; it doesn't illuminate and challenge the mind too much like other documentaries of the filmmaker, but it's also nevertheless unique in Herzog's cannon for what he does and doesn't take on with his subject(s). On the one hand, he's endlessly fascinated with ritual, with physical movements, of the masses of people who have gone on this pilgrimage from thousands of miles from all over the continent for this once-in-two-years event (this adds a dosage of climactic irony for what happens there- an 'illness'). It's anthropological to an extent, only it's not one of everyday culture so much as the unheeding devotion to a religion based around enlightenment, not suffering via a messiah or other. On the other hand, Herzog relies this time on just being a guy with a camera, moving around these swarms of people, and this time Herzog relents for the most part to "directing landscapes" as he usually does to just catching people's faces, their body language, and the instruments at their disposal (which are, usually, their own bodies, as in their bowing-type moves to attain a level, and crawling on ones hands and face across land for a purpose). It's actually, for Herzog, kind of conventional, bordering on being something one might expect for television.

But this little note shouldn't discourage one from seeing the film, and whether you're a Buddhist or not it holds its own aura that provides moments almost akin to what the Dalai Lama wants for his pupils and followers. One's even reminded of Woodstock in comparison of a documentary that goes out of its way to show more-so the nature of the people who gather together, and the power of a gathering, than the actual acts themselves. On top of this, Herzog does the occasional focus on an individual (albeit a little sidetracked as it is during the climax) with a political prisoner released from China and allowed to finally "see" the Dalai Lama in person. And for Herzog fans who are always on the prowl for his 'adequate images', there's still a good few to go around here, like when he captures the mountains that the Tibetans go to in masses, or the final images, including one that is as haunting as anything Herzog's shot. It's a peaceful, brisk journey; not a great work, but not an insignificant one either.

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