8.3/10
32,751
201 user 88 critic

Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Music | 24 August 1983 (France)
A collection of expertly photographed phenomena with no conventional plot. The footage focuses on nature, humanity and the relationship between them.

Director:

Godfrey Reggio

Writers:

Ron Fricke (scenario), Godfrey Reggio (scenario) | 7 more credits »
6 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Powaqqatsi (1988)
Documentary | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

An exploration of technologically developing nations and the effect the transition to Western-style modernization has had on them.

Director: Godfrey Reggio
Stars: Christie Brinkley, David Brinkley, Pope John Paul II
Naqoyqatsi (2002)
Documentary | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

A visual montage portrait of our contemporary world dominated by globalized technology and violence.

Director: Godfrey Reggio
Stars: Belladonna, Marlon Brando, Elton John
Baraka (1992)
Documentary
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

A collection of expertly photographed scenes of human life and religion.

Director: Ron Fricke
Samsara I (2011)
Documentary | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

Filmed over nearly five years in twenty-five countries on five continents, and shot on seventy-millimetre film, Samsara transports us to the varied worlds of sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial complexes, and natural wonders.

Director: Ron Fricke
Stars: Balinese Tari Legong Dancers, Ni Made Megahadi Pratiwi, Puti Sri Candra Dewi
Chronos (1985)
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Carefully picked scenes of nature and civilization are viewed at high speed using time-lapse cinematography in an effort to demonstrate the history of various regions.

Director: Ron Fricke
Anima Mundi (1991)
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Image and music are intertwined in this third collaboration between director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass. The film was produced to celebrate the World Wildlife Fund's ... See full summary »

Director: Godfrey Reggio
Visitors (2013)
Documentary
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

Director Godfrey Reggio reveals humanity's trance-like relationship with technology, which, when commandeered by extreme emotional states, produces massive effects far beyond the human species.

Director: Godfrey Reggio
Sacred Site (1986)
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

High speed film and time-lapse photography combined to create breathtaking images of the night sky and Halley's Comet in this astronomical short subject.

Director: Ron Fricke
Journey of Hanuman (Video 2013)
Documentary | Adventure | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

'Journey of Hanuman' preserves moments still existing in India that have not been disturbed by globalization and are connected with the antique spiritual knowledge of India. I wanted to ... See full summary »

Director: Lola Creel
Stars: Rip Brar, Peter Coyote, Arun Mathai
Documentary | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

Exploring the shared language and poetic sensibilities of all animals.

Director: Gregory Colbert
Stars: Laurence Fishburne, Jeanne Moreau, Enrique Rocha
Sans Soleil (1983)
Documentary | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A woman narrates the contemplative writings of a seasoned world traveler, focusing on contemporary Japan.

Director: Chris Marker
Stars: Florence Delay, Arielle Dombasle, Riyoko Ikeda
Samsara (2001)
Adventure | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A spiritual love-story set in the majestic landscape of Ladakh, Himalayas. Samsara is a quest; one man's struggle to find spiritual Enlightenment by renouncing the world. And one woman's ... See full summary »

Director: Pan Nalin
Stars: Shawn Ku, Christy Chung, Neelesha Barthel
Edit

Cast

Uncredited cast:
Marilyn Chambers ... Herself (archive footage) (uncredited)
Lou Dobbs ... Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)
Ted Koppel ... Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)
Edit

Storyline

This experimental film looks at the world and more specifically the effect man has had on the landscape and the environment. Without narration, the film shows the world in a pristine condition and untouched: blue skies, beautiful landscapes and endless vistas. The man-made world is much less appealing. Essentially a montage using a variety of film techniques to provide a visually stunning montage of images. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

October 4, 1982. More than 5,000 people filled the sold out Radio City Music Hall to experience a remarkable film event. That event was the world premiere of KOYAANISQATSI. Now everyone can share the power of that experience. See more »

Genres:

Documentary | Music

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Official Sites:

Official Qatsi Trilogy site

Country:

USA

Language:

Hopi | English

Release Date:

24 August 1983 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance See more »

Edit

Box Office

Gross USA:

$1,723,872

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,723,872
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

It took almost 6 years to make the film. See more »

Goofs

About an hour into the movie, the camera operator is reflected in the elevator's glass window as the elevator passes "between" floors while shooting the escalators. See more »

Quotes

title card: ko-yaa-nis-qatsi
[from the Hopi language]
title card: n. 1. crazy life. 2. life in turmoil. 3. life out of balance. 4. life disintegrating. 5. a state of life that calls for another way of living.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Prior to end credits translation of the title and Hopi prophecies heard in the film are given. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Watchmen (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Organic
Written by Philip Glass
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Wonderful Experimental Documentary
10 May 2004 | by razweeSee all my reviews

Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi (1983) is a film with no actors, no storyline, and no dialogue. The only things we see during the experimental documentary's 87 minutes are natural landscapes, images of cities, and real people going about their regular lives. Yet from the very beginning, when we see the title of the film appear in blood-red characters and hear the voice of a bass soloist chanting the title like an incantation, it is difficult not to be swept away in captivation.

Filmed between 1977 and 1982, Reggio's film was noticed by directing great Francis Ford Coppola who eventually agreed to finance the project and give it chances for distribution. Minimalist composer Philip Glass was optioned to compose the score, and the result was, quite simply, astounding.

Koyaanisqatsi is a collection of familiar images presented through tinted lenses (figuratively speaking). The experimental nature of the project can be seen in the reduced and augmented speeds of images, the use of carefully manipulated edits, and the use of Glass's score to create ambience. There are times when the film exhibits an almost surreal quality more indicative of a twisted, futuristic, dystopian sci-fi epic than of our mundane world.

This is, however, what makes Koyaanisqatsi so successful. In presenting our world in a disquieting, unflattering light, the film forces us to ruminate on our place in the universe and the consequences of many of our actions. The film starts with serene, austere images of mountains, oceans, and forests, and the repetitiveness of Glass's score does not bore us nor call attention to itself, but simply washes over us, entrancing us and instilling a sense of tranquility.

It is not long before the untainted images are replaced by nuclear power plants, highways, skyscrapers, rubble, fire and ash, and hoards of ant-like beings (humans, of course) scurrying through modern urbanity. Most times, humans are filmed at low-frame settings (making for faster speeds), and as a result, they seem frenzied, compulsively making their way through the cities in a manner that seems more conditioned than voluntary.

Glass's score responds by heightening its tension and adding a semi-brutal nature to its repetitiveness. It is somewhat aversive, but at the same time exhibits a humorous and mocking quality. By cramming together so many images of humans behaving more like lab rats than higher, thinking beings and increasing the satirical nature of the score, the film invites us to consider just how depersonalized, mechanized, and out-of-control many aspects of our life are.

The conclusion of the film contrasts against the blackly comic nature of the previous section by instilling a sense of mourning and warning. As such, there is undoubtedly a political and environmental component inherent in this film, but this is the aspect that is, in my mind, most often misunderstood. Many critics (mostly detractors) have interpreted Koyaanisqatsi as a call to action, an invective that demands that we atone for the rape-like pillaging the human race has thrusted upon the natural environment. Following from this, these critics claim that the film's message is that we would enjoy the planet more if we were not here at all, thus presenting a contradiction, since we would not be here to enjoy it.

In my own personal view, the flaw here resides in viewing the film as a tirade and a call to action. I find Koyaanisqatsi very clearly to be not a cry for reform, but a demand for awareness and meditation. There is an inevitability in the actions of human beings and their disregard for the care of their surroundings, and the wonderful thing about this film is that it forces you to experience the consequences and at least take notice of what each of us is contributing. It does not let you get away with indifference and nonchalance.

For me, however, the political component is less important than the stylistic component, which is one near and dear to my heart: the use of music to enhance the forcefulness of images. I acknowledge the fact that some will not be able to stand the repetitiveness of Philip Glass's score (and it is very repetitive at some points). But if one can consider the motive behind the repetition, the music ceases to be oppressive and becomes sublime and entrancing. The score adds impact to an already stunning array of unforgettable images, the details of which I will not go into, so that one may see the film with fresh eyes.

I saw Koyaanisqatsi for the first time at a performance in which the visuals were projected onto a giant screen with the soundtrack being supplied by Glass and his ensemble, who had come for a live performance. I had barely made it in time, since I struggled to find a parking space and was drenched from running in the rain. The moment the film started, however, all of the accumulated tensions in my body completely dissipated. It was not at all a cerebral experience, but an instinctive one in which I enjoyed the images and sounds for their own sakes.

When I left the performance, I was in a hypnotic daze, transfixed by what I had just seen. My initial impressions haven't changed to this day. I loved this film, and while the political and environmental concerns it addresses are important, what really makes this film for me is the instinctive, visceral power of its images and sounds. Koyaanisqatsi maroons its audience in an alternate version of reality that sheds disturbing light on our lives, and yet at the same time, it produces an unforgettable cinematic experience that is pervasively engrossing.


197 of 209 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 201 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Stream Trending TV Series With Prime Video

Explore popular and recently added TV series available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed