Koyaanisqatsi-A beautiful confusion or just a mere slideshow?
Yesterday I went experimental by watching this documentary. First of all it was pretty hard to chew on especially if it is just random images and a score. (Good thing I took a can of Coke and 3 madeleines to snack on during that film haha!). Perhaps I am used to a documentary filled with visuals,voices and sounds. However it was interesting and thought I would put my thoughts here.
It was interesting how this documentary is laid out as it reminded me of a Beatles’ song “A Day in The Life” in pacing-wise.
In that Beatles song-it started slow and gentle,then it slowly paced up till the turing point at 2:17 and it went back in a faster pace. An interesting fact about this part as quoted by music historian Johan Cavelli “The rising orchestra-glissando and the thundering sound are reminiscent of “Entry of the Gods into Valhalla” from Richard Wagner’s opera “Das Rheingold,” where after the rising glissando, Thor beats with his hammer. George Martin said in his 1979 book All You Need is Ears that the glissando was Lennon’s idea. After Lennon’s death, Martin seems to have changed his mind. In his 1995 book Summer of Love: The Making of Sgt. Pepper, he states that the rising orchestra-glissando was McCartney’s idea.” Perhaps what Geoffrey maybe used that pacing as the metaphor of how urbanization is slowly creeped up the natural world to the point we become part of the ‘machine’ as analyzed by Grgeory Rogers for his article in Koyaanisqatsi and the Visual Narrative of Environmental Film-“For the most part, the city-machine functions with extreme efficiency and breathtaking beauty. Yet in contrast to commercial cinema’s homages to the city as a site of heroic individualism and ingenuity, Reggio’s beautiful beast excels in “the destruction of individuality and serenity.” Reggio’s implicit critique is not so much of the city itself, but of a cultural myopia”
Or maybe I could see this documentary as a circle,in the beginning we seen the civilization of man by the image of cave-paintings and in the end,the same image again. It was the cycle of the destruction of the natural world,as humans used explosions to wipe away the natural existence as seen of buildings collapsing and that dangling image of a part of missile zoomed slowly. As Jorn K. Bramann looked into the analysis of that film-“The dependency of people on human-made objects, on technological installations and arrangements created by modern industry, is highlighted by the risks and dangers to which in varying degrees all inhabitants of the planet are subjected. One of the original reasons for developing modern science and technology was the desire to make the world safer to live in—to control and neutralize as much as possible the effects of floods, storms, earthquakes, draughts, epidemics, and other potential catastrophes. While efforts in this direction have been highly successful, the development of modern technology has also created new dangers that can be just as disastrous as natural events.”
If I look it in a general perspective-the average audience member,I could see it as a dull slideshow with a dramatic slideshow. It’s nothing but repetitious images that is equated to photography porn I seen at commercials on my television to save the earth from destruction and doom. At times I question myself “What I am watching this?” and tried to gain my attention to that film by scoffing my face with lots of sugary products. Now that is the problem of this film-while I admire that Reggio is trying to appeal to the masses on the scale of destruction we did with today’s technology,I think it was the techniques that perhaps make it so alien. Showing slow-no images in a trippy manner did not hit the core for many. When I refer to “many”, I mean the people who watched films which shows more action and dazzle without much thought. I could see it as more as a video art in an art gallery than the cinema screenings. It may sound negative but this is life and not every film pleases people.Maybe that is why not many picked this film and enjoy it. It is too abstract for the mind. Interestingly I saw a wordpress comment in a blog post “Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance” – The world as we know it” and thought I would put as it fits what is the audience mindset of it
The quote by Reggio, that the film’s meaning is “up [to] the viewer” seems like a very cheap way of saying, “If you find it profound for a certain reason, THAT’S what I meant to say with it.”
And to claim that a film has no one interpretation, and then give it a subtitle like “Life Out of Balance,” seems contradictory.
Either you titled the film in a way to bring everyone to a collective conclusion, or you have no idea what your own film is intended for. Make up your mind.
Even the famed film critic Roger Ebert criticzed its abstract methods and think it’s nothing but the glorification of man
“ This film has one idea, a simplistic one. It contrasts the glory of nature with the mess made by man. But man is a messy beast, given to leaving reminders of his presence all over the surface of planet Earth. Although a Hopi word is used to evoke unspoiled nature, no Hopis are seen, and the contrast in the movie doesn’t seem to be between American Indian society and Los Angeles expressways, but between expressways and a beautiful world empty of man. Thanks, but no thanks. I had another problem. All of the images in this movie are beautiful, even the images of man despoiling the environment. The first shot of smokestacks is no doubt supposed to make us recoil in horror, but actually I thought they looked rather noble. The shots of the expressways are also two-edged. Given the clue in the title, we can consider them as an example of life out of control. Or — and here’s the catch – -we can marvel at the fast-action photography and reflect about all those people moving so quickly to their thousands of individual destinations. What a piece of work is a man! And what expressways he builds!”
Anyway whenever you think it was a though-provoking film about the environment or just a terrible slideshow with so much ironies. Koyaanisquasti is something different for me. I think we should try to watch beyond our flashy “Hollywood Blockbuster” bubble and try watching something different.