Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Koyaanisqatsi by Godfrey Reggio

The story of humanity is a story of ever-accelerating change. In a famous illustration, if you compress the history of the universe in a single year, the pace of change (all the technological progress) that has happened on earth in the last micro-fraction of a second is both breathtaking and disturbing.

Koyaanisqatsi (a Hopi word meaning "Life out of balance"), the first film in the Qatsi trilogy, is a visually stunning film contrasting the life in ultra-modern cities with the desolate beauty of nature. Utilizing technically superlative time-lapse photography, panning shots, slowly moving camera frame, painstakingly choreographed music by Philip Glass, the film is a silent history of the world in 90 minutes.

The message of the film is quite obvious (especially if one stays till the end of titles, seeing the names of inspirations as Jacques Ellul and Ivan Illich), that technology, modern institutions, the values of mass-production, are achieving a momentum and autonomy of their own, with humans becoming subservient and helpless as cogs in a vast network.

The problem of the accelerating pace of technical achievement, and the changes it is forcing humans to make, is very real. Most humans lack the awareness and the ability to resist unnecessary and harmful changes in their lifestyle. This is a powerful issue, galvanzing to action millions of activists around the world and making intelligent deviants such as Theodore Kaczynski try to blow up airplanes and universities and write manifestos of a "return to nature".

In this age of worldwide awareness of global warming and the population explosion, this film (and the later films in the trilogy) can spark intelligent discussion about the fate of earth and if an individual change can realistically stop this avalanche.

However, I must admit that as I am awed by nature, I am also wonderstruck at times by the sheer felicity of human achievement in transportation, computation, communication and digital technology.


I was spellbound by quite a few shots in the film, notably the clouds washing over the mountain tops, the jetliner staring one in the eye, the moon rising across a skyscraper, and the demon-shape formed by the explosion in the desert.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

where do you get all these movies from?