FMP – Research – Koyaanisquatsi
‘Reggio’s debut as a film director and producer, is the first film of the QATSI trilogy. The title is a Hopi Indian word meaning”life out of balance.” Created between 1975 and 1982, the film is an apocalyptic vision of the collision of two different worlds — urban life and technology versus the environment. The musical score was composed by Philip Glass.
KOYAANISQATSI attempts to reveal the beauty of the beast! We usually perceive our world, our way of living, as beautiful because there is nothing else to perceive. If one lives in this world, the globalized world of high technology, all one can see is one layer of commodity piled upon another. In our world the “original” is the proliferation of the standardized. Copies are copies of copies. There seems to be no ability to see beyond, to see that we have encased ourselves in an artificial environment that has remarkably replaced the original, nature itself. We do not live with nature any longer; we live above it, off of it as it were. Nature has become the resource to keep this artificial or new nature alive.’
There 5 meanings to Koyaanisquatsi in which appeared on the screen at the end of the film affirming my interpretation and analysis of the film and making it clearer.
These meanings were:
1. Crazy Life
2. Life in Turmoil
3. Life Out of Balance
4. Life Disintegrating
5. A State of Life That Calls for Another Way of Living
There was also a translation of the Hopi Prophecies sung in the film which were:
“If we dig precious things from the land we will invite disaster.”
“Near the Day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky.”
“A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans.”
There aren’t any particularly technical shots, however, imagery the is strong and more than often striking holding your attention for the full 86 minutes that it runs for. It begins slowly with images of bare nature and continues for at least 25 mins, no voice over or anything just atmospheric mood music and the beauty of nature speaking for itself before introducing semiotics into the film. Out comes this big mechanical machine with a number 6 on it painted in red, just as you would see the evil 666 coloured in red, with a black cloud of smoke which soon covers the machine and the screen. The music changes to lower daunting keys and straight away you know man has become the destructor of nature.
Images of man made constructions appear within the once bare wilderness of nature and it’s portrayed as horrific and almost sacrilegious as the tone of the music gets higher pitch and is now piercing, like the breaking of a heart when all of someone’s live possession is taken away up and destroyed. The strong imagery not only shows the destruction of nature by man but how man has created a new nature, and how that new nature is to destroy original nature in order to make room to build and create the new one.
From the outside the images of cities with building built upon building makes you feel claustrophobic and depressed from the colourlessness, however, when the images take us through the streets and we see people we begin to realise just how normal the new nature is to everyone. There are lots of machines and production processes shown as well as bustles of people and crowds going about their daily lives, I believe this is to show how everything is now manufactured including nature and humans and the way we live, as without man what would we do with a train ticket; would we know to put it in the machine?
Throughout these scenes of people there is not one single shot of someone outside somewhere green enjoying nature, it is all people inside shopping malls, shops, arcades, and in the streets full of concrete and man mad buildings, but they do not look sad or bothered they are enjoying themselves, they are enjoying their new technological man made nature. Could this be because we don’t know what true nature is or looks like? Possibly.
After watching this film I couldn’t believe that I had sat through the entire thing just watching images, no voice over, no words on the screen, nothing. It occurred to me it was because these images were so compelling that even though it may have dragged at some points I still could not tear myself away, for it told and made an interesting story/point. It gave a strong message and this is what I need to be able to do with my film, maybe not through images as such but most definitely through the voice.