An unorthodox work in every way, Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi was nevertheless a sensation when it was released in 1983. The film wordlessly surveys the rapidly changing environments of the northern hemisphere. The director, cinematographer Ron Fricke, and composer Philip Glass created an astonishing collage; the film shuttles the viewer from one jaw-dropping vision to the next, moving from images of untouched nature to others depicting human beings’ increasing reliance on technology. Often using hypnotic time-lapse photography, Koyaanisqatsi looks at our world from an angle unlike any other.
Five years after Godfrey Reggio stunned audiences with Koyaanisqatsi, he joined forces again 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 everyday beauty of the traditional ways of life of native people in Africa, Asia, and South America, and to show how those cultures are being eroded as their environment is gradually 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, Naqoyqatsi. With a variety of cinematic techniques, including slow motion, time-lapse, and computer-generated imagery, the film tells of a world that has completely transitioned from a natural environment to a human-made one. Globalization is complete, all of our interactions are technologically mediated, and all images are manipulated. From this (virtual) reality, Reggio sculpts a frenetic yet ruminative cinematic portrait of a world that has become officially postlanguage.