An unconventional work in every way, Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi was nevertheless a sensation when it was released in 1983. This first work of The Qatsi Trilogy wordlessly surveys the rapidly changing environments of the Northern Hemisphere, in an astonishing collage created by the director, cinematographer Ron Fricke, and composer Philip Glass. It shuttles viewers from one jaw-dropping vision to the next, moving from images of untouched nature to others depicting human beings’ increasing dependence on technology. Koyaanisqatsi’s heterodox methods (including hypnotic time-lapse photography) make it a look at our world from a truly unique angle.
Five years after Godfrey Reggio stunned audiences with Koyaanisqatsi, he again joined forces with composer Philip Glass and other collaborators for a second chapter. Here, Reggio turns his sights on third-world nations in the Southern Hemisphere. Forgoing the sped-up aesthetic of the first film, Powaqqatsi employs a meditative slow motion in order to reveal the beauty of the traditional ways of life in those parts of the planet, and to show how cultures there are being eroded as their environments are taken over by industry. This is the most intensely spiritual segment of Reggio’s philosophical and visually remarkable Qatsi Trilogy.
Godfrey Reggio takes on the digital revolution in the final chapter of his Qatsi Trilogy. Through a variety of cinematic techniques, including slow motion, time-lapse, computer-generated imagery, and found footage, the film tells of a world that has completed the transition from the natural to the artificial. Globalization has been accomplished, all of our interactions are technologically mediated, and all images are manipulated. From this (virtual) reality, Reggio sculpts a frenetic yet ruminative portrait of an era in which the cacophony of “communication” has rendered humankind effectively postlanguage.