Review by Ed Nguyen
Audio: 5.1 Surround Sound
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Video: Color, widescreen 1.85:1
Features: Trailers, interview with director and composer
Length: 97 minutes
Release Date: September 17, 2002
1983, filmmaker Godfrey Reggio released the avant-garde film Koyaanisqatsi. Featuring a dazzling array of alternatively mesmerizing and
soothing images coupled to Philip Glass's New Age score, the film was hailed as
one of the most remarkable and original independent productions of the time.
Reggio's intent, however, was not to make just one film; he envisioned a
trilogy of films revolving around common themes of life and the inevitability of
change. So, Koyaanisqatsi
was only the first installment of a planned trilogy.
1988, the second part of the qatsi
trilogy arrived. Entitled Powaqqatsi,
the sequel was an experimental film that used a flood of images as commentary on
the progress of contemporary human existence.
Whereas the first film concentrated upon the dichotomy between the
natural world and the industrial setting of Western cultures, Powaqqatsi
instead explored a more impoverished world setting. If Koyaanisqatsi was
a film about the northern hemisphere and the alienating effect of its technology
and capitalistic societies, then Powaqqatsi
could be considered a film of the southern hemisphere and its more traditional
people and ways of life.
watching Powaqqatsi is akin to
watching an episode of National Geographic, or, as Reggio describes it, in the
spirit of "documentary engagement of the subject."
The film can be divided into two parts.
The first half focuses upon people in balance with traditions and nature.
The second half reveals the sometimes chaotic confusion that occurs
within societies in transition. This
uneasy transformation is perhaps best symbolized in the image of a young boy,
walking and dressed in traditional garbs, as he is engulfed in the swirls of a
dust storm created by the wake of a huge, passing construction truck.
is presented entirely without narration. In
fact, there is no conventional story or plot to the film.
Instead, it is a symphony of sequential images which offer a
splice-of-life portrait of cultures more attuned to a naturalistic existence
than to the blur of industrialized activity.
Reggio's film ultimately challenges viewers to interpret its images
within the realms of our own individual experiences.
Powaqqatsi concludes with a
translation of its unusual title, offering some further insight into a possible
unifying theme for the images of the film.
with Koyaanisqatsi, its predecessor,
this film is better experienced than described. With scenes captured from daily life in India, Africa, and
the South America continent, Powaqqatsi
offers a glimpse into a world perhaps alien to many Westerners yet one just as
vital and functional. The film is a
testimony to the power of cinematic images in eliciting emotional and
note: Recently, the film Naqoyqatsi
was released in theaters. Described
as a film of "life as war," Naqoyqatsi
completes the qatsi trilogy with
some disturbing images of a possible course for humanity in the twenty-first
century. The three films of the
trilogy, when viewed together, are as powerful as any recent documentary but
reach beyond the limited constraints of geopolitics to present a more
encompassing and penetrating examination of the essence of humanity.
general, the image quality is quite clear and detailed, with minimal dust or
debris. The print used for the DVD
is fairly pristine, and the transfer has faithfully-rendered colors with
realistic skin tone. I am glad that
MGM did a fine job with this transfer in preserving the beauty of the film's
to the nature of Powaqqatsi, the only
sound in the film is the score itself. And
what a memorable score it is! New
Age artist Philip Glass's unusual approach to musical composition employs
numerous chordal and phrase repetition, with endless variations upon the same
musical motifs. The effect,
orchestrated with electronic instruments, can seem simultaneously tedious (as in
a never-ending scene of a passing train, played to looping music) yet also
extremely hypnotic. Anyone who has
seen the qatsi trilogy in its entirety
will probably associate forevermore the Philip Glass scores with the images, so
well integrated are sight and sound in these three films.
trailers for all three films of the qatsi
trilogy are provided.
only other extra feature is "Impact of Progress" (20 min.), an
interview with Godfrey Reggio and Philip Glass. Both men discuss the creative and symbiotic collaboration
necessary to assemble Powaqqatsi's
images and sounds. Reggio also
presents a very detailed explanation of the film's title and its relationships
to the on-screen images. At times,
watching this interview feature is a bit like sitting through a dry philosophy
lecture, although there are interesting tidbits here and there, including a
brief introduction to Naqoyqatsi, the
final film of the trilogy.