Ben Oliver

Banner image for Koyaanisqatsi


Near the Day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky.
06 February 2015

Koyaanisqatsi is a 90 minute montage, and therefore a tough sell. Turn back if you like dialogue and stories.

Reggio puts this together extraordinarily well. It really does not feel like this film is driven by any sort of idea, leaving the audience to build a narrative around what is on screen.

It’s a gorgeous film. Planes move on the runway like a ballet. The moon floats towards a tower block. Cars move at the speed of light. People flood through a station like water. The list goes on. It’s beautiful, mesmerising and creative.

There’s a case to be made about man vs nature and how bad modern life is but I found Reggio’s shots of the city to be so fascinating I can’t get on board with that viewpoint. Humanity has created its own reality, it can be dull and it can be mundane, but it can also be exciting and alive.

What really struck me as a central theme was motion. Fricke, the cinematographer, has a knack for moving his camera in time with the action, creating a kinetic feeling. The way he shoots clouds, water, traffic and people brings the film to life. Koyaanisqatsi, whether showing sped-up or slowed-down footage, never stops moving.

My concerns that this would be a dull, pretentious, heavy handed message about how bad humans are were quickly assuaged. Reggio has focused on quality imagery with no agenda, and has made a truly captivating piece of work.

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