Monday, 19 January 2015

Koyaanisqatsi [1982]

Godfrey Reggio spent 7 long years to make Koyanisqatsi, the first and the most famous chapter in his ‘Qatsi Trilogy’, and which translates to ‘life out of balance’ in Hopi language, with a paltry fund and sans any script. The deeply experimental and formally radical work reminiscent of Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera, which became a sensation in the arthouse circuit upon its release, was a visually enthralling and emotionally disquieting commentary on the flip side of modernization. Though bereft of characters and dialogues, it had a distinguishable narrative structure that captured Regio’s leftist politics in no uncertain terms. It begins with shots of breathtaking environmental beauty, gradually progresses towards human interventions in the form of industrialization and technological advancement, and their jarring juxtapositions with natural landscapes, follows that with images of insatiable urbanization, and finally ends with vignettes of ageing, loneliness and impoverishment despite all the “progress” than humankind has made. The tonal shifts – from peace, lyricism and wide-eyed amazement, to moody ominousness, growing anxiety and palpable edginess, to finally quiet melancholy and weariness – were brilliantly evoked through the thematic underlining of the images, photographed using a plethora of techniques (overhead shots, close-ups, multiple film speeds, overlap of images, etc.) by Ron Fickle, and the haunting orchestral score by Philip Glass accompanying the proceedings. The fact that, despite the avant-garde nature of the film and the limited budget with which it was made, the audio-visual elements were so seamless integrated with the decidedly pro-environment agenda, is truly worth being mesmerized by irrespective of whether or not one agrees with Reggio’s socio-political stance.

Director: Godfrey Reggio
Genre: Documentary/Avant-Garde/Experimental Film
Language: Silent
Country: US

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