You could put Philip Glass’s score of Koyaanisqatsi over The Lion King 2019 remake and I’d probably think it’s great.
A must-watch if the world suddenly were to end in 90 or so minutes. Koyaanisqatsi is the gap that would’ve fit perfectly in between Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey from where the primate throws the bone in the air to the cut where we see the shuttle flying through space. Similar to Shirley Clarke’s 1958 short Bridges-Go-Round, this documentary feels like an outsider or extraterrestrial’s point of view from seamlessly gazing over the nature of Earth and its inhabitants, while their emotional reactions to these images are told through Philip Glass’s compositional masterpiece. To accomplish this, Godfrey Reggio’s has made the chosen shots appear futuristic and foreign despite them being elements of our everyday, many looking like something torn straight out of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner or surreal-afied by fast-mo, slow-mo, sudden cuts, lighting tricks, coloring tricks, opacity layovers, this jaw-dropping talent for building momentum, oversaturated distortions of seemingly normal footage or, again, the imperious music to accompany them.
Another interpretation of Koyaanisqatsi could be that the physical action or locations on screen are what’s being given feelings through the score, as if the collection of both the non-living or the walking were being summed up in perspective with a series of songs. Admittedly, the film does end with a few definitions of the word “Koyaanisqatsi” — don’t look them up if you haven’t seen the movie yet — but even at that, each definition is fairly divergent from one another, so what’s truly the message of the piece if hopefully not some “ok-boomer” rant? Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 acclaimed celluloid collage on the occurrences of Earth is cinematic ambiguity at its most intentional to me: the plot has transpired into whatever the glorious visuals and music makes you believe it to be.
So, basically, I could give this movie an “A+” or an “F” and you couldn’t give me s**t for it. Nonetheless…
The Amateur’s Favorite Documentaries
“Koyaanisqatsi” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.