Is seventeen or eighteen years (depending on how you count, we’re not getting into it) enough distance to allow us to start doing some real analysis of the 20th century?
Is seventeen or eighteen years (depending on how you count, we’re not getting into it) enough distance to allow us to start doing some real analysis of the 20th century? In putting together Koyaanisqatsi, director Godfrey Reggio set out to begin that process of reckoning. The project was like nothing ever filmed before, though seeing it in 2018 has diminished its ability to shock and surprise somewhat; timelapse shots of cities at night are pretty commonplace now. But in order to get the footage they wanted, he and cinematographer Ron Fricke had to invent several cameras. They traveled the country aimlessly shooting things they thought would look good on film. They developed new techniques of post-processing. They brought in Philip Glass to score the movie with closer collaboration than was ever before brought to a film soundtrack. It felt important, amid an accelerating and transforming world, to find new ways to bring that vision of the world to an audience.
Reader, if you don’t already know what Koyaanisqatsi is, this text will be woefully inadequate to prepare you. Please do not come to this movie expecting plot, characters, dialogue, drama — that is to say, don’t come expecting to see a movie. Maybe it’s best understood as a photo essay, except the photos are moving. And instead of a page count, it’s 85 minutes long in real time. And while you’re “reading” it, you’re also listening to perhaps the best and most fully realized minimalist work by one of the most accomplished composers of the late 20th century. And the topic of the photo essay is a period of about 50 years during which civilization advanced so rapidly it began to warp and distort the world itself; from some perspectives, a period in which everything began to fall apart. Koyaanisqatsi, as the film itself takes time to explain, is a Hopi word meaning approximately “life out of balance.” Join REWIND for Koyaanisqatsi and see your own world in a new way, exactly how you’ve seen it a million times before.
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