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Reviews & Ratings for
Koyaanisqatsi More at IMDbPro »

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Index 179 reviews in total 

A-never-before-seen interplay of three forces: editing , music, photography

Author: Jay-Are from Oldenburg, Germany
26 May 2003

This landmark film sure is totally unique in any way. That perhaps is the reason why a few people rated under 8 or 9 - I think they must have been either not open-minded enough or they just haven´t realized resp. esteemed the power of movie language here. A-never-before-seen interplay of three forces: editing , music, photography.

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20 years on and still going strong.

Author: Midshipmans_hat from Sydeny Australia
26 May 2003

I can't add anything here that has not been said over the previous 70 comments. The simple fact that a film with no dialogue at all has so many people saying what a masterpiece it is 20 years after it's release speaks for its self. It's suitable for anyone who is willing to think about a film whilst watching it. Probably best avoided by action movie fans and people who voted for George W Bush.

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Life out of Balance

Author: Patrick ( from PA, USA
14 May 2003

Life out of Balance

As Western Civilisation tears a path across Earth, it leaves the debris of its construction scattered over the surface of the planet. America's `purple mountained majesty' and `spacious skies' have fallen to strip mines and heavily patrolled air space. Biological evolution has become irrelevant, replaced by the manipulation of our environment and genetic modification. We are rapidly constructing a civilisation of destruction. We have raped the earth of her beauty and replaced it with towers of corporate power and industrial wastelands. We have dehumanised ourselves, disconnected of earth itself we lose all identity as human creatures and are now but the interchangeable parts of a global machine.

It is the horror of what we have become that forms the core of Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi. By juxtaposing the cool tranquillity of nature against the frantic rat race of man, Reggio demonstrates to us just how far we are removed from our origins. Unlike the desert calm or rolling clouds, we are the violent actions of Earth. Volcanoes, we erupt upon the surface, creating havoc and destroying all that lie in our path. Reggio prompts us to ask ourselves why we are what we have become.

Koyaanisqatsi, despite dating to 1983, is still highly relevant. It's timeless. It transcends the barriers of language, relying only upon images and music to transmit its message. The message is sometimes confused, hidden behind a façade of beauty, but it is in this façade that the message is found. The juxtaposition of nature's beauty against man's hideous creations is intended to reveal our true nature. Our awesome construction projects, the very indicator of our power, are ugly. The fabric of our society, the web we weave, is weak. Every inch we raise ourselves above what is considered base, is merely another inch for us to fall.

Reggio's film is a cinematic masterpiece. Each shot is beautifully composed, offering us new perception into the world we spend our every waking moment in. However, it is in the manipulation of the images that the message is created. By under and over cranking the camera, Reggio changes not only our visual perception but also our relationship with time. He is able to isolate people on the crowded streets of New York and Los Angeles, slowing the rush of a nine to five existence. The sense of worthlessness is overwhelming, these individuals are lost amongst the masses, one of millions who crowd the streets. Yet for a few brief seconds this individual is bought to a near halt, immortalised on celluloid. It demonstrates the very banality of modern human existence. Humanity strives for immortality is some form or another, but in our very quest we have wrought our own destruction.

Humanity's zenith has passed. In the final shot of the film, one which lasts several minutes, we watch a shuttle launch into space. Space exploration, man's greatest achievement, becomes a metaphor for its creator. As the craft rises above the earth it carries the hopes of a species. It is majestic, the pinnacle of technology, the culmination of 100 000 years of modern human existence. However, like man, the craft is doomed for failure. As the explosion tears the craft apart, so are the dreams of man strewn across the empty sky. The camera follows a piece of flaming debris as it falls to earth. This is our fate. As Lucifer fell from heaven, so must man fall from grace.

The film attempts to illustrate the flaws of man. In our success lies our failure. It does not advocate any cause or lifestyle, it merely informs us of who we are and what we will become of our future should we continue as we are.

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Not for the unthoughtful

Author: elwinter from New Mexico, USA
27 April 2003

Having read through 60+ comments already online about this film, I won't bother to add to that verbiage. Instead, I'll describe the experience of first seeing it, which is still vivid in my memory.

Koyaanisqatsi was shown at Radio City Music Hall when it was released, as part of the New York Film Festival. Once it was over, the sold out house made its way out onto the streets of midtown Manhattan, during busy evening traffic for the theater district. The audience had been transfixed by the film sufficiently that it had temporarily forgotten how to "behave" as pedestrians. Scores of people wandered off the sidewalks and into the streets, such that it snarled up traffic. Perhaps they were considering the intensity of city life as ephemera or illusion. And so, a cacophony of taxi horns filled the air, and the drivers rolled down their windows to curse and yell, trying to bring the crowd back to "reality". Which everyone was busy considering in unconventional ways. Memorable juxtaposition.

Inexplicably, in the midst of it all, was a man from Bolivia with a llama. For some modest fee, you could have yourself photographed with the furry Andean ruminant. Completely cryptic, but somehow appropriate, and as sensible as anything else around and about at the time.

Koyaanisqatsi was (and is) beautiful and thoughtful. About ways of life that can endure, and those which carry the seeds of their own destruction. Told in a non-narrative, non-verbal way.

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What perfection looks and sounds like.

Author: solidsnake8706 from usa
18 March 2003

There is no way to put this film into words. Rent it. Buy it. Catch it on TV. It doesn't matter how, just see this film. It is truly a life changing experience. Every frame is true perfection. Every bit of music heard in the film is true perfection. Godfrey Reggio is KING!

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A wondrous piece of art, however not timeless.

Author: ( from NYC, NY
17 March 2003

It is only fair to say that before I start this review I should introduce myself so as to show what standpoint I come from. I will see any movie. I can look at films as art and as interesting ways of killing two hours. A successful movie is one that I can remember long after I leave the theater, which for me is a huge stretch because my short-term memory has been killed by all the fast-paced editing we see everywhere today. To put it simply, after seeing Goldmember the only thing I remembered from that whole movie was the very beginning with the mock opening. And this was just as I got to the parking lot.

I had heard only briefly of Koyaanisqatsi after seeing posters for Naqoyqatsi, the final part of the trilogy. Hearing all the hoopla about the first film being revolutionary and exciting, I went and got it. I took it home, saved myself an hour and a half of nothing to do and put it on.

Someone had told me that this movie's praise in the early 80s came from the fact that no one had ever been exposed to shots like the ones in the film before. There were no long-form time lapse shots, no IMAX-like landscape views, no shots of random people staring at you for five minutes, and that alone is revolutionary. Indeed you are left to draw your own conclusions after you finish watching everything and that in itself is a dangerous idea.

The cinematography is beautiful. Yes, you could find a lot of these shots on inspirational posters, but inspirational posters don't compare city grids to motherboards or the minor bustle of Grand Central Station during rush hour to the quiet stillness of nature. And finally, Koyaanisqatsi has no poorly-written one-liners. The DVD cover is enough to have photography majors in my school giggle with joy.

The score for this movie, done by Philip Glass, is incredible. It can be said that it's aural poetry when combined with the images the music is put to. Glass, himself, said on the DVD that he would write music to fit exactly what he saw, and it's crystal clear what he going for in most senses. When there was a bustling crowd or a rushing flood of weiner dogs, Glass would be there to compliment the frenetic pace. It beats Madonna's "Ray of Light" video to the punch.

Unfortunately what mostly gives this movie its downfall at this day and age is how outdated it is for its message. The music, though minimalist (barely) and symphonic, is electronic in parts and can sound like your average B-rated educational video. And look at the hair on those women. It must be the 80s. As a time capsule, this film works beautifully to ressurect images locked in our minds from that era of the late 70s, early 80s, but for us in the new century, the concept of the film spouting "Life without Balance" can be lost quite quickly.

Being new to the films I couldn't help but hold my breath every minute as shot after shot revealed the basis of what would be parody after parody after parody in later years. Who knew "Vessels" by Philip Glass was what was being parodied by South Park, or how many times have we seen time lapse shots of cars on a freeway in terrible educational videos? So many things seem to have come from this movie it is astounding.

If you've heard about this movie and have just a slight interest in seeing it, give yourself the time and patience to give it a shot. Not much will seem new to you, but if you let the engaging visuals and Glass' impressive score enter your senses, you'll find yourself entranced all the way to the credits.

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Music for the eyes

Author: Baroque
6 February 2003

I went to see this film in New York City many years ago. I knew nothing about the film, except that everyone was raving about it. I sat patiently in the darkness amid hauntingly beautiful music, waiting for a character to appear, for a word of dialogue or narration, anything...then I realized what the film-makers were up to...

This film stars the planet Earth and everything in it!

It went from incredible beauty, to the technological insanity that has become our daily lives, to the mournful tones of the end with scenes of self-destruction, which seem to present itself as a warning for us to mend our ways, with music ending the same way it began. The descriptions of the Hopi prophecies sent a chill through me as I read them for the first time, and I heard an audible gasp coming from the theatre's audience.

A film with no characters, no cast, no dialogue, no narration, no storyline, and no plot. It doesn't need any of them. The visuals and music dance hand in hand with indescribable beauty.

Now it is on DVD, and I can only echo the praises others have left for this film.

Magnificent, highly recommended, and worthy of preservation for future generations. If you want to know what is meant by "cinematic art", this is a shining example.

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Singular! I declare, exceedingly singular indeed!

Author: Dan Oines ( from Florida, USA
26 December 2002

The mid 1980s. A 13 inch TV. PBS shows Koyaanisqatsi. Beauty, energy, and raw truth overwhelm a mind lighting up. Amazement. Sound, light, matter and time unified. Yes.

Koyaanisqatsi had a profound impact. The station only showed it one more time, then it vanished for over 15 years. The marketplace was flooded with Space Jam, Operation Dumbo Drop, and Jaws 3-D cassettes available 24 hours a day. Pauly Shore's body of work quickly found its way to DVD. Finally, in 2002, I was able to revisit this stunning work of art.

United Airlines happened to go bankrupt this month. A news story showed some jets with the ugly grey and white modern paint job. Then they showed an old white UAL plane with the rainbow stripe and elegant black lettering. I hadn't thought of or realized how beautiful, innocent, and optimistic that design was until they were juxtaposed. It was joyous to see the same white planes slowly shimmering into view again in Koyaanisqatsi.

I can see how Koyaanisqatsi and statements praising it would be painfully aggravating to rational, symbolic, left-brain perception. Luckily, the first viewing opened my "artist's eyes" and I found myself zapped into the timeless, mystical freedom of right-brain mode. I loved how they broke the rules of conventional cinematic narrative when they held and held and held that shot of the casino waitresses. The blond woman in the black car pausing before rolling up her window looked angelic. It is a great gift to be freed from the mind-forg'd manacles of language, a backward-looking substitute reality inherently limited by its dependence on pre-defined words.

Translated into prose, Koyaanisqatsi would be a dismal, long-winded, empty failure and a torture to read. But as direct, unfiltered, unencoded, living reality, it transcends prose to become poetry. A miracle of light, nature, and humanity. The brilliant music, tied down so tightly with seemingly simple repetition, breaks free nonetheless with stunning power.

I treasure Koyaanisqatsi, and am glad it lived up to (and often surpassed) my memories. After so much cultural change, it is an amazing artifact of America as it once was. Like Lumet's beautifully photographed "The Verdict", it captured details of a time now lost forever. I send my sincere thanks to the team who came together to make this special film and all those who brought it back on DVD.

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Stunning; a beauty that will move you to tears.

Author: bs_carter from Toronto, Canada
18 November 2002

You have never seen a movie like Koyaanisqatsi, because it isn't a movie. A work of art in pictures and sound.

(Best enjoyed in a proper cinema, or a well equipped home theatre.)

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Author: flash4077 (
10 November 2002

I would rate this as the most thought provoking film I have seen to date. Not sure how well it would work on the small screen - I really think it needs to be seen in the cinema. I'm a bit surprised at some of the other reviews - not really sure how one could miss the point of this film. 10/10

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