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Koyaanisqatsi is a product of years of hard work on part of filmmakers
and hundreds of years old Hopi prophecies. Watching Koyaanisqatsi with
some knowledge of Hopi culture goes a long way towards truly enjoying
I have seen Koyaanisqatsi numerous times, every time on the big screen and I believe that seeing it in cropped 16:9 aspect ratio can't do it justice. Having said that, it is still better to see it even in 16:9 then not to see it at all. (although I would advise against watching it in 16:9 on a small screen TV).
Koyaanisqatsi is a film with no dialog, actors or even a "story". However, to those familiar with concepts which are in the film, this work of art has a lot to offer.
Hopi Indians believe that God (or "Massaw" as they call the creator) created four distinct races to develop four essential elements: earth, wind, water and fire. The first part of the film illustrates that, although beautiful imagery can easily distract us, in a good way, from noticing that pattern is followed.
It is the white man that developed and is still developing what can be done with fire element: mining and excavation, arms, nuclear weapons, engines and power plants. In the process, all kinds of fuels are needed and consequences were foretold by Hopi prophecies - "If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster".
Without narration, dialog or acting, Koyaanisqatsi communicates very well dangers and pitfalls of careless modern development which is quickly surpassing our abilities to control it. In this respect the film could be seen as pessimistic, but I look at it more as an observation. Koyaanisqatsi is not a criticism of all modern technology, rather a look at, from a fresh perspective, of what we are doing to the world we inherited and seem to take for granted. It doesn't let us turn a blind eye to our race with ourselves in which essential earthly and human values are left behind. Even with the film being 25 yrs old, the freshness is preserved and is it's key element.
Koyaanisqatsi is probably the most enjoyable and moving portrait of our planet and humankind and should definitely be a centerpiece of some time-and-space-floating time-capsule.
For me, Koyaanisqatsi is one of only a few films which I consider works of art in the deepest sense.
Unless you are into plots and action, you will not be disappointed by this film; in fact, this will be the fastest 100 minutes of your life and it could be the most enjoyable film you ever saw.
I have read quite a few of the messages posted about this film and on
thing that I have noticed is that a fair number of them complain about
that there seemed to be no dialogue in this film.
Of course there was/is a dialogue that tan from beginning to end of the film...it was/is between the images presented and the viewer. How a person deals with the aftermath of the experience of viewing the film is something that is dependant upon whatever that person has experienced throughout their own life.
That is why all comments about this film are valid...even the 'dumb-assed' ones.
As soon as you hear that a film like Koyanisqatsi (or any of the
'Qatsi' movies, it's technically a trilogy) is no dialog, no 'story' in
the fictional-character sense, and is driven by a marriage of
landscapes (in the realms of deserts and mountains, and the modern
urban sprawl) matched to Phillip Glass music, you'll know whether this
sounds like something to watch. Some will not want to go anywhere near
it. And yet this is one of those rare films, like many silent-era
motion pictures, and Disney's Fantasia, that can be shown in any
culture, anywhere in the world, and people don't have that element of
communication keeping people apart or at a distance, or in need of
translation. What is shown in Godfrey Reggio/Ron Fricke's Koyaanisqatsi
(aka "Life Out of Balance") can be generally understood, at least if
one follows the progression of one image to another - which, to not be
snobbish, is kind of what filmmaking is essentially about - in giving
the impression of what happens when one moves from the barren-natural
world of mountains and deserted, rocky land, and that built upon by
humans in cities.
And what is there in cities but technology; we need energy to survive, and cities have to provide energy, and, for myself this is one of the main thrusts of the film, people in cities feed off of that energy. Reggio and cinematographer/writer/Fricke (the latter would go on to make films in a similar, visually-aural-driven range with Baraka and Samsara) are all about charting how things are breaking down, and yet constantly moving. They accomplish much of this visually by showing things in slow motion and fast motion; what you see sometimes today on YouTube or Vimeo of cameras being tested at the high-frame rates and the low F-stops - for camera people, think of getting a camera to 3 frames per second, and conversely at 3,000 frames per second, or something extreme like that - and you get the idea of the visual ambition here.
It took years to make this film, and yet it was all driven by what is essentially in the documentary form - showing the world as it is. A documentary will be 'scripted' after the film has been sought out and shot. But the experiment here, what sets this film apart so much from other films in the world, documentary or otherwise, is how the filmmakers have to give any messages through the flow of visuals - and the music. Interestingly, Phillip Glass scored the film in twelve sections, and then the director heard this music and re-cut the film to fit the music. So it's like one has to fit with the other, and it goes without saying this is music as intense as you'll hear in a movie. It will sometimes go to a slow crawl, with the organ playing smoothly, and then other times, as the montages ramp up and people move about in the masses and through places and in cars and on the streets, the music is not so much setting the mood of the players as keeping in exact lock-step with what's on the screen. It's a rush.
At first, I didn't know about the technological-focused scope of the film, and it opens with the shots of the mountains and deserted plains and so on, and I thought this would be it for the film - not bad in the slightest, but... is that it? But the transition into the sections on the cities, with it first seeing the urban decay and poverty in cities (I think it's New York, it's hard to mistake it at that period of the time in the late 70's and early 80's as anything else). Then, buildings come crashing down in demolition, which continues the notion, I think, of building things up only to have to crumble them down again when they're no longer good. And then, in the main chunks (and certainly what people will probably remember most from Koyaanisqatsi), the many, many people walking, driving, going through transit, playing video games (seeing Ms Pac-Man in fast-speed is a highlight), and also how things get moved along in factories like hot-dogs and jeans.
The great thing about the film, if one meets it all halfway, is that it doesn't really hold your hand about anything. One person may take this as being a condemnation of how modern society operates in cities - and this is 35 years ago, one wonders how Reggio and Fricke see this all today, with people now not even looking forward as they walk or move but at their phones and laptops - or, on the other hand, a person may take this as an ode-to-joy, a symphony of technological breakthroughs and how people co-exist with one another (aside from the building collapses, there's no real violence depicted... well, aside from the MEGA violence that comes with nuclear blasts, which are I assume stock footage in part). There's no one interpretation with a film like this, or others like it like Baraka.
For myself, I think it's a grand provocation of the human spirit and what we're capable of, about if we are taking things for granted. There's all this technology, and it's so easy to get around in cars and (in America, relatively) easy to navigate around from place to place. Yet there is in parts great poverty in areas people may not care always to look, especially when skylines go up high and people are successful. And the film ends on an aching, poetic note of a part of a rocket (or is it a spaceship) coming down in slow-motion, to that one Glass organ. I hope to return to this again and again.
Koyaanisqatsi is what you would get if took the filler shots from
numerous documentaries and smashed them together accompanied by some
music. And yeah, that's me being somewhat harsh, but it's not much
better than that, really. There's artistic flair to it and it does
explore certain themes, but it's still more of a mood piece than
Plus I have a problem with the aforementioned themes. The word 'koyaanisqatsi' comes from Hopi language and literally means "chaotic life". Essentially life in turmoil, life out of balance. And while the film makers have said that everyone is free to view the film as they wish, it's pretty clear that their own intentions were to portray the downsides of modern society, of human existence in general. Except I didn't get that from the film. The first part of the film of generic nature landscapes is extremely boring and ordinary. It's only after humans start to show up, and we start to see time lapses of industry and technology, that things get interesting.
And yeah, the movie shows us behaving like ants. Mindless masses passing through gates of steel and pillowing smoke. But, if we are ants, we are ants that will eventually populate the stars. We achieve, we build, we evolve ourselves. To me the whole movie is a message of triumph, of small people coming together to achieve something. And thus, as the intended message starts to become clearer near the end of the film, I was left feeling betrayed and baffled.
Koyaanisqatsi is not for everyone. It's very slow, requires patience to sit through and you kind of have to agree with its message to get the full experience. Personally I didn't care for it, but I've talked with people that absolutely loved it. And even I can appreciate its flair and attempt, to some extent. Check it out if you're looking for something with a lot of edge.
There are two ways I can think of to review a movie: The first is to
simply describe the movie, the second is to futilely try to analyze the
Neither of these options seemed to work on this film, but I was reminded of something: During the American tour for My Bloody Valentine's immensely influential album Loveless, the band experimented with their audiences' ability to sustain music played at high volumes. Critic Mark Kemp said of the tour, "After about thirty seconds the adrenaline set in, people are screaming and shaking their fists. After a minute you wonder what's going on. After another minute it's total confusion. The noise starts hurting. The noise continues. After three minutes you begin to take deep breaths. After four minutes, a calm takes over." This is as good of a review of Koyaanisqatsi as I could think of.
From the Hopi language, Koyaanisqatsi is a word that roughly translates
as "crazy life," or "a life out of balance," or perhaps more
appropriately, "a way of life that calls for another way of living."
Incidentally, that's exactly what this film shows: no plot or story,
just a document of the modern age of man, far out of balance from
nature, which calls for human beings to adapt to their own constructs.
This film doesn't offer any conventional story with any characters; it's purely an experience built from images and sound, to illicit thought and feeling in the viewers. Both the images and music are beautiful in their own ways: with Phillip Glass' epic, well-structured music score, the film takes on a palpable rhythm and mood that perfectly accentuates the gorgeous scenery. The film plays around a lot with time-lapse footage and slow-motion, which serve to show common cityscapes in an invoking new way. Altogether, the film is as hypnotic and mesmerizing as it is thought-provoking.
This film was cobbled together from all kinds of footage filmed across the United States from 1975 to 1983, with a tight budget. Regardless, the filmmakers show superb prowess with their photography and editing skills. At least on a technical level, they've maximized their potential and tools to craft an audio/visual masterpiece, weaving the images and music to the themes implied with the term Koyaanisqatsi.
As far as the content goes, like any piece of art, it's left to the viewer's interpretation. The most opaque of themes will revolve around civilization's progress, the depletion of nature, and the effects of technology and industrialization on the human race. There are times in the film where humanity seems triumphant, and other times where it feels like it's spinning out of control in a downward spiral of chaos and destruction (especially in one of the film's final shots, depicting an Atlas-Centaur rocket exploding; it's a sequence that's always hit me the hardest, given the combination of imagery, music, and the overall theme that human civilization rises so high, but will eventually crash and burn).
Watching this film is not only a treat for the eyes and ears, but also a sobering, moving experience unlike any other. I believe it truly represents the best and worst of the human race in the modern age, and everybody should see it at least once in a lifetime.
5/5 (Entertainment: Perfect | Content: Perfect | Film: Perfect)
This strange title hide a movie which critics the world of today, who
is evolve constantly but since the human is living on this planet, the
pollution is common.
"Koyaanisqatsi" is an awesome movie for cinema lover peoples because it contains fabulous images and a wonderful music. This movie make us think about the actions of the human on the environment. After watched this movie, i realize the earth changed a lot since the human use it. But, i think some shots in this movie are a bit slow.
Directed by an unknown people with the name of Godfrey Reggio, formerly monk, this movie will stays in my mind and i don't will hesitate to watch it again.
A must see movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The views of the natural world contained in this movie are hardly less
violent than the human occupied scenes. There are geological views of
scenery that are violent and stark and ocean view of violent waves and
simply acknowledging nature as a violent and unbalanced place is
worthwhile in and of itself.
The idea that somehow we as humans inherently destroy the natural balance of nature is something that only the Greens amongst us might buy into. And the idea that the human part of this world is any less natural is bogus.
I found that sitting and watching this movie was an exercise in frustration that no one around me was willing to even consider any other point of view.
There is no doubt that this is an excellent example of pure cinema and music melded together and it was worthwhile even with the frustrations I experienced.
I found the full Koyaanisqatsi film on Youtube's Movies section. After
reading about it in IMDb, I decided to give it a try.
The film is quite impressive. There is no plot in the traditional sense, no actors, only wonderful scenarios which put together can be interpreted in many ways, just as Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." To me, this is a timeless film reflecting the way civilization has transformed man into a hurried individual who has dropped the taste of life in favor of efficiency. It gave me a fractal sensation about the earth, as an image of our very bodies.
I recommend this film to anyone looking for something to silently think while watching; its music and photography are worth admiring.
I challenge anyone to watch this film and not get carried away by its cascading imagery and haunting soundtrack. Koyaanisqatsi breaks away from the confines of film convention in a way that many experimental directors in the years preceding failed to. Many compare this film to Dziga Vertov's The Man With A Movie Camera, a comparison which is not wholly unfair. But while Vertov's film flaunts the versatility of film and cinematic storytelling, Reggio's piece is more lamenting and emotional. Not that this mars the experience - many choose to watch it on a purely audiovisual level, which I would concede is a far more rewarding experience. Director Reggio and his photographer Fricke work flawlessly with musician Philip Glass to unite image and sound into a cinematic experience that is impossible to forget. Buildings collapse, traffic runs like rivers, the sun pulls light like a veil over cityscapes - Koyaanisqatsi is the ultimate in unconventional cinema and deserves to be seen by everyone.
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