Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance – Review
Directed by: Godfrey Reggio
For fans of: America, the year 1982, the country, the city, Philip Glass, Francis Ford Copola, classic arcade games like Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, Powaggatsi, Nagoygatsi
Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance is an experimental 87 minute masterpiece about America’s two sides: nature and industry. The title comes from the Hopi, meaning ‘life out of balance’. There is no dialogue, only imagery and music (by Philip Glass to boot). The device is use slow-motion and sped-up photography.
LET IT BEGIN
The film begins the way it ends, with a musical score to listen to and landscape shots to look at (pardon the grammar). From opening to end, the music will change little- beautiful, turgid, swells followed by solemn, reverent drolls. The music, by itself, is masterful enough by itself. But the addition and juxtaposition of the cinematography to the music makes the perfect marriage.
AMERICA’S TWO SIDES
The rest of this will be all opinion, for what Koyaanisqatsi is trying to ‘say’ is highly interpretive and controversial. There are many thoughts and interpretations, but one thing is clear, director Reggio is trying to say something- something important; something desperate. One man’s review I read saw this film in 1982 when it was in theaters. He felt then that it was comparing the beauty of America’s natural wonders to the ugliness of her cities. He recently watched it again, however, and felt like it was saying the opposite, comparing the drab dullness of the open expanses to the bustling vibrancy of the cities. I found this to be an interesting 180. How can one watch the same thing twice and conclude with an exact opposite opinion?
The answer is easy, for all I have to do is watch it again and my mind might change as well. I do think his former interpretation is correct- but only partly. It is about America’s plains, and her rivers, and her grasslands and how beautiful they all are. And in Koyaanisqatsi they are beautiful, comparable only to Discovery’s Planet Earth and Life series. Yet, there is pulchritude in America’s cities as well, and this is where I disagree with the aforementioned man’s latter interpretation. Until the third act, this movie is all beautiful. There are amazing comparisons of round hills and sharp cliffs; round car tires and sharp building corners. Round, sharp, fast, slow, busy, serene- this is a film of equality.
WAR: WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
Which leads to the third act: destruction. War, makers of war, and results of war. This, I think, is the point of the film. Was destroys everything, the beauty of both nature and the city; both God’s creation and man’s creation. War is death. Again with equality, for a bomb makes everything flat.