Koy Aanis Qatsi

ObligatoryImdbLink?: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0085809
Koyaanisqatsi: a soul-burning film by GodfreyReggio? set to music by PhilipGlass. The title is Hopi for Life Out Of Balance. No actors, no dialogue, just 90 minutes that will change your perspective for good.

The film consists of time-altered photography - either time-lapse to speed up long events, or super-slow motion to show tiny moments in detail - of various human and natural situations. The brilliant editing invites the viewer to meditate on the fractal parallels between clouds shading Southwest canyons, blood pumping through tissues, people crowding through subways and many other intriguing and beautiful situations. The MinimalistMusic? of Glass combines droning repetitions, subtle evolutions over periods of time, and surprising sharp contrasts between musical textures. After adjusting to the pace of the movie, the viewer is drawn in to the movie's mind-bending spirals of various timescapes and a non-preachy awareness of just how "out of balance" the technologically mediated modern life can be. This is truly an awesome cinematic journey and a must-see on a large screen with an audience sharing the experience. -- ChrisBaugh


The sequels, Powaqqatsi and Baraka, are damn fine too. I can't forget that scene at the start of Pow with the miner being carried forever up the hill of mud. And then you realize ...

Baraka is not directed by GodfreyReggio?, and although it is (I think) more beautiful than Koyaanisqatsi or Powaqqatsi, it ends up being a somewhat empty movie, even though one of the themes would appear to be HumanReligion?, which you would expect to be very interesting. There is no story to it, no narrative flow. Worth a watch, but not in the same league. -- Edouard

(Baraka was directed by Ron Fricke, who worked with Reggio on Koyaanisqatsi and perhaps the other Qatsi films. In fact, many of the images in the two films are nearly identical. I wouldn't be surprised if they had come from the same roll of film. This is not to denigrate either Fricke or Reggio in any way; both films are amazing and uniquely moving in different ways. -- JosephDale)


When you watch this movie you don't realize you are not on acid. --PhlIp

I take it you have never actually *been* on acid :) -- anonymousacidhead

I take it you've never actually *met* PhlIp :) -- anonymousfriendofphlip

LOL! --AnonymousPhlIp

Apologies for never dropping, but nonymousacidheads who meet me tend to advise me, very strenuously, against it. PeerPressure sucks, huh? --PhlIp


I was in college at Texas A&M when Koyaanisqatsi came out. The film club screened the movie at their amateur film festival that year, and my philosophy teacher (the film club's faculty sponsor) offered a few sets of tickets to our class. I had seen Siskel and Ebert's review, and decided to go - mostly to see how it could be that a movie with no characters, no dialogue, and no plot could inspire such raves. I was, to say the least, skeptical.

As the credits rolled, I realized that my eyes were burning intensely because I had not blinked enough. It remains one of my favorite movies. -- GlennVanderburg

I adore Koyaanisqatsi, but I'm not sure I came away with the message the filmmaker intended. Every time I see the speeded-up footage of commuters and traffic, I think, "Isn't it marvellous that so many people actually manage to get where they want to go every day." I'm left wondering at the majesty of technology, instead of vowing to flee to the desert.

-- BetsyHanesPerry

I also had a similar experience. Koyaanisqatsi left me with vivid images of cities as beautiful organisms. The flows of people and materials as the living pulse of the city. -- CliffordAdams

BaraKa? has this, too - a sped-up shot down a long arterial road in what looks like a South American city; the changing flows of traffic as the lights move between their phases is just like breathing.

I saw it after the Word got out around TylerSchoolOfArt?. Of course the late 1970s theme is "technology is bad". Of course we are expected to see beyond the "primitive cultures are good" ideal. This is not any whining liberals flick. This movie's spectral vision fills your brain up with good content that will influence you for the rest of your life. -- PhlIp

It reminds me of the Windows' AncientPathwaysDesktopTheme?. -- PCP


For anyone else who (like me) is interested and hasn't seen it yet, I had quite a bit of trouble tracking it down. Here's a link: http://bne002i.webcentral.com.au/catalogue/videoshift/gateway.shtml?id=425

-- PaulBennett

Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi are (at long last) being released on DVD 9/17/2002. -- GlennVanderburg

I saw a DVD double-pack of the Quatsi films in HMV on Oxford Street in London (ie the biggest store in national high-street chain) a few months ago (around April 2003), for 10 UKP (or some other ludicrously cheap sum). It seems likely that the same might be available in other larger HMVs, Virgin Megastores, etc. -- TomAnderson

Be aware that Koyaanisqatsi is one of those movies that needs a big screen for maximum impact.

The third film in the trilogy, Naqoyqatsi, is scheduled for theatrical release (US?) on October 18, 2002. See http://www.koyaanisqatsi.com/ and http://www.naqoy.com/ for more information.


BaraKa? was shown in the UK several years ago as part of a ChannelFour? theme night called (IIRC) 'Rave New World' that was mostly about ecstasy, but finished with a two-hour dose of CGI psychedelics and then BaraKa?. Earlier, there was an issue of Equinox about ecstasy, narrated by TomBaker? (Equinox is/was C4's main science programme). TomAnderson has much of it, including BaraKa?, on PAL/VHS tape somewhere (probably).
A few people have described feeling joy and amazement at some of the ostensibly "anti-technological" scenes in Koyaanisqatsi. I don't think that's necessarily a misinterpretation of anything. I had quite a few of those feelings as well, although they tended to be mixed in with feelings of fear and sadness. There were quite a few moments when a single image or scene would have me in tears at the insane imbalance of things and at the same time laughing out loud at the sheer ridiculousness of life; it was sort of a combination of utter sympathy with the world and cool, cosmic detachment, if that makes any sense. The key idea, after all, is balance. Modern technological society has many evil aspects, but that doesn't mean it must be destroyed, and that humanity should revert to some "pure", primitive state; it simply means that the evil aspects of modern society must somehow be transcended, while integrating the beautiful, uplifting aspects. (KenWilber and FritjofCapra?, among others, have written cogently on ideas related to this.)

By the way, the title is actually given several related definitions at the end of the film, not just "life out of balance". The definition that struck me even more was something to the effect of "a state of life that calls for another way of living".

I first saw the film with the soundtrack performed live by the Philip Glass Ensemble. The music, heavily amplified at times, lent an amazing physical intensity to the imagery. This movie truly GoesToEleven in every sense.

One final comment: In case I haven't expressed it already, my view is that Koyaanisqatsi is not so much intended to send a "message", to say "this is bad", "that is good", as to help the viewer simply become more aware of herself or himself, and of the world and his or her relation to it. After seeing this movie, you may find yourself having little or perhaps not-so-little epiphanic moments. Immediately after seeing the movie, I was walking back to my car from the concert hall at the University of California at Davis, along a dark little road that ran along the edge of campus. Initially, I was transfixed by the sound and sight of the cars passing by me on the road. At one point, I felt a strange sort of light above me, and I looked away from the road, utterly amazed to see that I was standing at the edge of a large, open field of grass, ringed by trees. There was a full moon illuminating the field, and from beyond the trees one could hear the gentle sound of the freeway... And I just stood there for a while, by that field under the moon, feeling balance.

-- JosephDale
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