director Godfrey Reggio
It’s hard to find adequate words to describe some films, and in some cases it’s better to not really try too hard.
Koyaanisqatsi, a documentary, shot on the whole with no narration or text, capturing images vast of landscapes natural and man-made, and set against the haunting score by Philip Glass, is one of those things that must be seen and heard to fully appreciate. In fact, it really seems a shame not to see this on as large a screen as you possibly could.
Shot by cinematographer Ron Fricke, this film set a new standard of type for documentary film, a standard that Fricke and Reggio would continue to develop in later films, though apparently not as collaborators. Reggio would go on to make two other films to complete a trilogy, Powaqqatsi (1988) and then Naqoyqatsi (2002), each titled from the Hopi language, addressing the state of the world (Koyaanisqatsi has several potential translations but is succinctly cited as “Life out of balance”).
I’d never managed to see Koyaanisqatsi before, though I’ve long been familiar with the films. I have seen Fricke’s Baraka (1992), which I always found trippy and profound. I’d come to queue up Koyaanisqatsi finally because it was one of my outlying films from the BBC’s 100 Greatest American Films list.
It’s a pretty amazing film, quite radical in 1982.