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Koyaanisqatsi
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Reviews & Ratings for
Koyaanisqatsi More at IMDbPro »

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Index 182 reviews in total 

We surely invite disaster

Author: Nick J from Reading, England
13 June 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This review describes the scenes in the film, some may regard these descriptions as 'spoilers'.

Possibly the most underrated film of all time. Underrated because it is not at all like most other films. Most films have actors, dialogue, plot, people kissing and/or killing each other, so anyone who is closed-minded enough will probably not like Koyaanisqatsi, as it has none of these.

It is a sequence of images- time-lapse, slow-motion, normal speed, stills, all set to a haunting Philip Glass score. The beginning of the film depicts scenes of great natural beauty and splendour and draws ingenious paralells between the motion of clouds and the motion of water, as well as striking views of Monument Valley, Utah, among others.

The images gradually change in character as we see more and more of man's influence upon the natural environment, particularly how careless and destructive we are.

The final part of the film concentrates on city scenes. Again, time-lapse is cleverly used to illustrate the movement of people, one is reminded of the movement of clouds and water at the start of the film, but people appear to move in a more futile and purposeless way. The grace and beauty of the water and clouds is completely lacking here.

Individual people are shown in slow motion going about their lives. Those lives are made to appear worthless and in one case extremely moving, as a vagrant shuffles down the street inspecting his empty pockets. He appears to look into the camera (did he know it was there?) and the expression on his face is something I will never forget.

The final scene indicates the failure of man's technology as the music reverts back to the opening theme. I won't spoil this scene as it makes a wonderfully powerful climax that words cannot convey.

This IS the best film ever and it is worth every second. It conveys a powerful and somewhat depressing message that you won't be able to ignore.

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The only film that really deserves to be called 'art'

10/10
Author: Greg Redwood from London, UK
10 June 2002

I saw this film many years ago (against what I thought was my better judgment) on the recommendation of some 'arty/druggie' friends. Nothing could have prepared me for the experience of seeing this on a huge screen (incidentally, if you ever get the chance to see this on a decent sized cinema screen, cancel anything else to do it, even your own funeral!). Words cannot describe the powerful imagery of the pictures on the screen and the perfectly matched score. An undeniable masterpiece of monumental proportions, this has affected me more than any other film, piece of music or other art I have ever experienced. I sat there transfixed, never took my eyes off the screen and 'forgot' I was in the cinema, never saying a word to my friends around me- the same goes for all the other people there. At the end of the film, everyone sat there silent, in an almost trance like state, whilst the credits ran up. I have never matched that cinematic experience to this day, and doubt that I will again. I got it on video years ago, and whilst I've recently got a 52" TV and can now get something of the experience back, the pan and scan and poor quality sound track does a great dis-service to this film.

HOWEVER- it seems the studio have finally sorted out the legal wrangles that have prevented it up to now, and are preparing to release this on DVD in September this year- not before time, this is without doubt (along with 2001 & T2) the reason DVD's were invented- but be warned, its only really worth seeing at home in widescreen on a very large TV, with the volume turned up to neighbour(hood) annoying levels.

Well, enough hyperbole, just go an see it/get it, or you've missed out on one of life's most intense experiences.

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True Masterpiece

10/10
Author: Martijn Toning (mtoning@chello.nl) from Netherlands
12 March 2002

This is a true masterpiece. I had not seen Koyaanisqatsi in years, but I still remembered it as an amazing piece of cinema.

Recently I watched it again, and I was stunned by the pictures and the wonderful music by Philip Glass.

Highly recommended.

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Film making as it should be. Brain food!

10/10
Author: (alphun@yahoo.com) from London, England
16 February 2002

This is one of "those" films. The kind of film that will either alter, or re-enforce your perception of living on this planet. If not, your heart is in your wallet. Visualy, both stunning and disturbing. It spells out a message that is as old as it is new. We are, and if we want to remain, we all aught to take a serious look at ourselves, and everybody else. Re-evaluate our pre conceptions and move towards a more common way of being..........

Sorry to rant....... The meanderings of a punk rocker come hippy...

I love this film!!!!! It aught to be part of every schools' cericulem...(spelling is an art form I am phronetically)

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A visual and audio bombardment on the senses

10/10
Author: quin1974 (quin@hideout.demon.nl) from Den Haag, The Netherlands
24 January 2001

This must have been the fastest 87 minutes of my life. I started this on my VCR and was sucked into this mesmerizing world of imagery and sound and before I knew it was over. This movie bombarded me with these visuals I could not take my eyes off.

Philip Glass' soundtrack was engrossing if chaotic at times (but this complemented the scenes perfectly) and made the skyscrapers and apartment buildings seem like giants standing in a wilderness created by Man.

The imagery of the highways at night filmed in timelapse were particularly striking because they seemed to resemble veins and arteries of a body that was very much alive. We are just a part of this enormous organism called Mother Earth, and we should respect that.

The timelapse visuals of the city in the rainstorm were very good as well, it gave you an impression that while we think we have conquered the world there is always this tremendous force looming over us, but we just don't realize this every day.

One more thing: I think the tie-in for the beginning and the end with the launch of the space vessel was fantastic. This shows our vulnerability when it comes to what we are doing every day. You have this incredibly complex machine, but when only one part of that machine breaks down the whole system goes down. That is something to think about (and was it me or was that piece of debris never going to hit the ground).

And in this manner I can go on and on recalling my impressions on the visuals but that would take up too much space.

I regret having seen this on the small screen. I do not know in what ratio this was shot (2.35, 1:85 or something else) but I expect this to be 20 times more impressive on the big screen. This is an eye-opener of the best kind.

10/10

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Have a barrel of fun!

10/10
Author: wryroy (royhenock@yahoo.com) from Eureka! CA USA
26 November 2000

This is an awesome movie, although I'm not quite sure I'd actually characterize it as a "Barrel of fun." However, there is a scene in the movie (Times Square, Manhattan, NYC) with a huge billboard of Colonel Sanders urging his customers to "Have a barrel of fun!" (i.e., a barrel of his Kentucky fried chicken). Down on the street, it doesn't look like any of the pedestrians appear to be having much fun at all though...this is only one of hundreds of amazing images & ironic juxtapositions that make up the movie. I doubt if there's much in the way of original criticism that I can add that you can't already find in the external reviews and other user comments, but I would like to make 2 recommendations that are not already listed under the imdb.com recommendations: "Baraka" and "Powaqqatsi." These 2 films are also "documentaries" about the world we live in, and like "Koyaanisqatsi" they also have no "plot", no dialogue & great soundtracks. If you like "Koyaanisqatsi" you'll like these films too!

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unforgettable, one of a kind viewing experience

10/10
Author: Dr.X from parts unknown
14 August 2000

I had no idea what I was in for when a couple of friends showed up with a tape of this about ten years ago. Within five to ten minutes we were all glued to the screen with fascination and awe. The editing, photography, and use of a terrific score are all nothing short of brilliant. Having only seen it once all those years ago, I still vividly remember many of the scenes and images. I suppose for some this film will lose its appeal in the light of similar experimental collages in film and even music video. But this one is perfect in my opinion. For some reason, this came up in conversation with one of those friends who brought the tape over, and ever since we've discussed it I can't wait to track it down and see it again. I would love to see this on the big screen.

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A powerful film

Author: john suckling (dubnut)
12 August 2000

I have seen this film 3 times in its pan/scan format, having no access to laserdisc or unconventional film houses. Being a moderate fan of Philip Glass, I was utterly glued to this film each time. It reflects the power and majesty of our planet, revealing its beauty and reflecting the horrors and numbness of our devolution upon its surface. It depicts the vastness of nature and the vast loneliness of a humanity which struggles to cope with cities and buildings.

This film should be watched by all with an eye for beauty, nature and truth. I have never before seen a more honest film, and I am greatly looking forward to the proposed war documentary of the same vein.

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Fascinating visual documentary speaks volumes without words

10/10
Author: Tony DeMatio from San Jose, California
20 June 2000

Quite possibly my favorite film ever, Koyaanisqatsi (a Hopi term meaning "life out of balance") is an amazing film. Featuring no dialogue but boasting a terrific score by Philip Glass, it documents the impact of technology on ourselves and the world around us.

While the concept of a film with no dialogue might seem a little dull for more mainstream viewers, anyone willing to give this film a chance will most likely be surprised at how powerful and beautiful it is. The superior cinematography combined with Glass's music is an experience that begs to be seen with as large a screen and as few interruptions as possible.

I usually find that few films can hold the same amount of interest on repeated viewings, but having no dialogue is Koyaanisqatsi's blessing. The pictures move by so quickly that there is always more to see, more to discover. If you allow yourself to become immersed in the film, it is almost like being in a trance. Glass's soundtrack is hypnotic; sometimes brooding, sometimes frenetic, sometimes even exasperating, but always appropriate.

In short, no review can really do this film justice. Don't be put off by the title or the difficulty in finding this film. It's more than worth the effort.

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A mind-blowing experience

Author: neale.apps from Sydney, Australia
8 June 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS***

I first saw Koyaanisqatsi this year in an unusual mode: Philip Glass, composer of the mighty score to this film, was touring with his ensemble, and actually performing the score, live on stage, in sync with the film which was being screened above the stage! - almost like the days of piano-accompanied silent films, one might say. It was in January this year at the Sydney Opera House. The lights went down, and the organ began a slow, funereal passage as the screen slowly panned across ancient South American Indian cave paintings. An impossibly deep bass vocalist on stage began chanting slowly, over and over, one word, the movie's title. Already, I was enthralled. As the movie progressed through slow motion pans over beautiful, untouched natural landscapes, the score swelled in power and majesty. Suddenly, an odd discordant note crept into the score, and we are confronted with the visual spectacle of hundreds of oil rigs pumping, giving visual body to the now-straining theme. The next three-quarters of the movie are in this vein, as we are treated a visual recording of the human takeover of every facet of the life on the planet. The images now, instead of being slowed down, are speeded up to a dizzying, frenetic pace - crowds in Grand Central Station, traffic on L.A. freeways, looking almost like a biological closeup of a human bloodstream, which is matched now by the rapid-fire arpeggiated score. Finally, the music returns to a slower, studied, uncertain theme, as we witness in incredible, close-up slow motion, the launch of a U.S. space probe. The camera follows the rocket from the launch pad up into the sky over several minutes, until it accidentally explodes - the explosion, even in slow motion, is so sudden, so frightening, I almost fell out of my seat. At that instant, the original, deep, sombre chanting theme returns, as the camera for the rest of the film, remorselessly follows the shards of the space vehicle spinning helplessly - still in slow motion - towards the sea, before ultimately returning to pan once again over the original cave paintings. Finally, the screen goes black, and the dictionary translation of the Hopi word Koyaanisqatsi appears - "life out of balance". The message is powerfully and unforgettably clear: despite our technology, despite our apparent mastery of the world around us, we in western culture aren't quite as smart as we think we are. This for me was a mind-blowing experience; I will see this movie again and again, but I will never forget the first night I saw it, performed live by the composer. Surely this film, with the possible exception of Fantasia, is the greatest combining of the arts of film and music ever attempted, and beggars subsequent cheap imitations like Naraka. You must see this film at least once in your life. It's awesome.

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