Koyaanisqatsi (1982) is a film with no actors, no storyline, and no dialogue. The only things we see are landscapes, images of cities, and people going about their regular lives. The film opens on ancient native American cave drawings, while the soundtrack chants “Koyaanisqatsi” which is a Hopi indian term for “life out of balance”.
Koyaanisqatsi uses extensive time lapse and slow motion photography. In one of the first scenes, we see cloud formations moving (speeded up) intercut with a montage of ocean waves (slowed down) and in such a way we are able to see the similarities of movement between these natural forces. It is not long before the pristine images are replaced by nuclear power plants, highways, skyscrapers, rubble, fire and ash, and hoards of ant-like beings (humans, of course) scurrying through modern urbanity. The portrayed humans are making their way through the cities in a manner that seems more conditioned than voluntary.
By cramming together so many images of people behaving more like lab rats than higher, thinking beings, Koyaanisqatsi invites us to consider just how mechanized, depersonalized, and out-of-control many aspects of our modern lives are.
Although many critics have interpreted the film as a tirade and a call to action, it is better understood as a demand for awareness on the human position on our planet as catalysts of evolution. If we get better attuned to our job description in the larger scheme of things, we can perhaps moderate Koyaanisqatsi and obtain a finer balance between the old nature we originate from, and the next nature we are causing.
Passed: Baraka (1992), Manufactured Landscapes (2006)