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The Qatsi Trilogy
Koyaanisqatsi / Powaqqatsi (DVD)
Member Name: venceremos
Koyaanisqatsi / Powaqqatsi (DVD)
Advantages: A Visual and Aural Treat
Disadvantages: Hard to describe
DVD box sets seem incredibly daunting when you look at them. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been bought an entire TV mini-series for Christmas, and thought "I can't justify plonking myself in front of the telly for THAT many hours, when there's so much else to do." And your heart sinks, cos you know you'd have to watch it all in one go, because if you don't, you'll forget the characters and plot if you leave it half way through. Especially if it's dull. And if you'll be seeing your donor again by New Year, you'd best at least make the effort.
Well, if your nearest and dearest are going to insist on buying you box sets, tell them to get this one from Santa. It couldn't be better - no script, no characters, no plot to discuss. Nothing.
What each of the Godfrey Reggio's Qatsi trilogy consists of, in fact, is a visual tableaux of images set to the musical score of Philip Glass. That's pretty much it, but I won't be doing it justice by just leaving it there.
"Koyaanisqatsi" is a Hopi Indian word meaning "Life Out Of Balance", and is chanted in basso profundo at the beginning and end of the work. In between, we are presented with sequences of time lapse and slow motion photography, initially concentrating on the forces of nature, such as flowers, waves and clouds, and then moving on to man's imposition of technology and industry on the world, such as the Navajo Generating Station, the explosion of atomic bombs, and the movements of the networks of people and traffic throughout New York City. The viewer is left to their own interpretation of each segment of this trilogy - for what it's worth, Koyaanisqatsi brings home to me how wrapped up in technology mankind has become, and how cut off we are from the natural resources which ultimately keep us alive.
"Powaqqatsi", the sequel, can mean either "Life In Transition" or "Parasitic Way of Life" in Hopi. This work concentrates on the impact of modern technology on developing or Third World countries, especially in conflict zones. The images on this occasion concentrate more on people, usually those living a traditional way of life, in their work and their worship. For me, there is also a highlighted contrast between urban and rural life, and while there are less visual tricks here, this is to more accurately reflect the reality of the lives of the people shown, and reminds us we all move to the same beat of the chronological drum we call Time.
"Naqoyqatsi" (not a part of the product description but included by me for the sake of completeness) means in Hopi "Life As War" and has the musical soundtrack again set to accompany the images, but on this occasion, a cello plays a single line running through the whole piece. Much use is again made of archive footage, digitally processed, and again it flashes before us almost subliminally. For me, it describes mankind's transition between a nature-based to a technology-based way of life, to the extent that mankind can no longer function without the technology it has created for itself.
As you've probably worked out for yourself from my clumsy attempts, Reggio's films are better experienced than described. Whereas Disney's Fantasia was meant to be an animation that complemented the music, Glass's score seems to have been created specifically for the film, or at least created at the same time. The effect is that these hypnotic works should provoke thoughts, ideas, emotions and interpretations in the viewer, and so the reception will be largely subjective. Some who have seen this tell me it is inspiring, some say frightening. It's all in the eye of the beholder, and for those of you interested in psychedelic experiences, it's worth your while knowing there's enough in these works of visual art to enhance whatever trip you may be on. Unlike the Mad-chester music scene, however, you don't need to be on drugs to appreciate Reggio's works, just the time and space to enjoy them.
Summary: Immerse yourself
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