A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 53 – Koyaanisqatsi

Koyaanisqatsi – April 22nd, 2010

This is not a movie with a plot. It has no named characters and no dialogue and no screenplay with stage directions. What it is is a movie with a message and beautiful cinematography and a mesmerizing soundtrack. Have you seen it? Have you heard about it? If you haven’t seen it or have only seen parts, this is going to be hard for me to explain to you. And that’s fine. I’ll do my best, but ultimately I’m going to suggest that if you are at all interested, you should find a copy of the movie and just sit down and watch it. Plan out an hour and a half to just sit and take it in all in one sitting. It’s best that way. And be well-rested before turning it on. Some of it is, as I said, mesmerizing, and I can see how some of the calmer, more peaceful sections could lead to sleep if you need a nap. The bizarre part is that I don’t at all mean that in a bad way.

The word ‘koyaanisqatsi’ is, according to the movie, a Hopi term that roughly translates to the movie’s subtitle: Life out of balance. And so the movie is a series of sections showing the natural world – deserts, rivers, caves, etc. – with no humans, then moves slowly into populated areas and then shows humans and the things we do. It’s all done in beautiful wide shots or time-lapse shots showing movement over the course of hours or days. And it’s all set to a Philip Glass score. If I was going to get all academic about it, I could probably make a case for there being something akin to a plot here, and conceptual characters such as “nature” and “humanity” and “technology” and I’m sure I could get a halfway decent paper out of that. But that’s not what I’m doing here. That’s not why I’m watching. I’m watching because it’s beautiful. It’s just occurred to me that I would absolutely love to see an IMAX (wraparound, not dome) version of this movie. The footage in it is stunning. I haven’t seen the other two films in the trio (Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi), but I’d like to at some point. We don’t own them yet. We should. I’ll be adding them to our To Buy list later.

Having watched this now a number of times, I can stand to look away a bit and write this review and eat my dinner, but I remember the first time I watched it and how I simply couldn’t take my eyes off of the screen. There are a couple of parts in particular which have stuck with me since that first viewing. One is the opening, with all of the footage of the natural world. The others are the most overtly destructive visuals: The atom bomb test footage, the ending with the rocket exploding, and then the footage of the Pruitt-Igoe housing development and its subsequent demolition. Without any dialogue or written storyline, the movie still manages to make me tear up watching those, not merely because of the images being shown, but the meanings those images and events carry with them. The movie makes me think, which is, I believe, the intent, so despite being somewhat dated in terms of the fashion and cars and video games on display, I believe it succeeds. I’ll certainly be watching it again. And again and again.

April 22, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | ,

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