“ Genre: Documentary - Military & War / Theatrical Release: 2002 / Parental Guidance / Director: Godfrey Reggio / Actors: Jeff Maksym, The Beatles, Nikita Khrushchev, Thomas A. Edison, Ronald Reagan ... / DVD released 2005-02-28 at Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainm / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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Naqoyqatsi ('Life as War') is a 2002 film by Godfrey Reggio and the third part of the 'Qatsi trilogy', following on from Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi. These are visual documentaries, meditations on the changing face of the planet as man encroaches ever more on nature and natural environments become ever more artificial. The big theme of Naqoyqatsi is how man uses technology to wage war and suppress individuality. Or something. There is footage of destruction, police brutality, soldiers, and a lot of loops of the hapless George W Bush. The wonder evident in the previous two films is still sometimes here though and there are many striking and beautiful images for those who have the patience to stick with it. Did the world really need another 'Qatsi' film? Probably not and distributors seemed to feel the same as it was only the personal intervention of filmmaker Steven Soderbergh that managed to get this released. While Naqoyqatsi has some great stuff I find this stretches one's patience at times more than the other two, especially Koyaanisqatsi. The war theme is hammered home just a little too much at times here and becomes slightly wearisome.
The film actually starts in fine fashion. Panning shots of empty warehouses and ruined buildings. All strangely compelling and pretty and there is a wonderful swooping shot of stars in the sky and an angry looking sea with crashing waves. The film did though become rather bogged down for me with its blurry art deco montages of soldiers marching endlessly. These were rather like the pre-title sequences Maurice Binder used to design for the James Bond films at times only without the charm and scantily clad women. Impressive on the whole and a bit Andy Warhol but after about ten minutes of this you start to get bored. I found this to be somewhat darker than the previous two films too and there is always a gloomy and sombre edge to the film. The other films had that too but not to the extent that Naqoyqatsi does. Koyaanisqatsi has more scenes of natural wonder and is generally a more uplifting experience despite its visual critique of mass industrial society with all its circuitous madness (that was a long sentence!).
Once again there is another stirring and majestic score by Philip Glass and it really wouldn't be the same without him. His music is somewhat John Barry You Only Live Twice Space March at times but more industrial and raw on the whole. It's ominous and atmospheric and a perfect backdrop for the images onscreen. Naqoyqatsi is only 89 minutes long in duration and I think it was probably a good move not to make this too epic or long. These are quite difficult films to describe or review really and more of an experience than anything to analyse or explain too much. It's essentially a work of art to music and is sort of about technology and how we are slaves to it now because we couldn't go back to living in caves like the Flintstones or something even if we wanted to. Progress though is incredibly bittersweet and for all the advantages it has reaped it has also damaged the natural beauty of the planet and generally made us more uniform, alienated and regimented.
I found that this film relies on visual technology and graphics more than the previous two and I felt this was a slight drawback. However clever computers are these days they can't compete with the moon passing behind a skyscraper or a mountain range seen from above. To borrow a theme from the trilogy, there is more of an 'artificial' nature to this entry at times and occasionally you do feel like you are watching Tron or a cartoon or something during the more gimmicky longeurs. There is though of course some stunning stuff in the vein of the other two films, especially the montages of buildings and occasional trips into the sky. I think I would definitely rank the films in the order they were made and put Koyaanisqatsi firmly on top. Naqoyqatsi has some memorable images and the music is again wonderful but it does always have the faint air of one two many trips to the well.
Like the other two films in the series this is really a late at night unearthly hour film designed to become rather hypnotic. I don't think it works as well as the other two on the whole. Koyaanisqatsi is the essential one and Powaqqatsi has some great stuff but you could make a case for them leaving it at one let alone three. At the time of writing you can buy Naqoyqatsi new for just under a tenner or used for under a fiver. £10 seems a bit mean to me so I would look around or wait for a better deal to surface. Extras with this are a featurette on the music, an interview with Philip Glass, a panel discussion about the film and trailers for Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi. On the whole this is really one only for Koyaanisqatsi completists who just like the idea of having the whole trilogy. I loved the first, liked the second one, and could take or leave this one. It's very beautiful at times but Naqoyqatsi is not quite as good or interesting as I had hoped it might be.