Sunday, November 9, 2008


With the viewing of Koyaanisqatsi last week I am reminded why it is one of my favorite films. In relation to the articles we have been reading in class, space as a quality of film has been lost. Gone are the days of art in mainstream cinema as I find myself unable to watch 98% of films released in the corporate theater chains. The work of Akira Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman are difficult for my peers to watch and near impossible for them to enjoy. Space, metaphor, and the human condition are qualities that have been removed in place of cheap laughs, one-liners, computer generated graphics, sex, explosions, and money.

As expected, and yet to my disappointment, many of my classmates disliked the film because it was "too slow" and/or "boring." This is understandable as the majority of viewers have been subjected to the 30 minute to 60 minute phrasing of marketing trash that plagues our big brother televisions and modern movie assembly lines. Others find this film makes the audience uncomfortable as they find their uniqueness as a person is removed from seeing thousands of faceless people crossing their eyes going about their lives in lines, eating, and coming and going nowhere.

Personally, in the upwards of 700 films i have seen, Koyaanisqatsi ranks among the top rivaling narratives like Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. When people are speed up to the degree that is portrayed in Koyaanisqatsi, they move the way ants do. It gives me a feeling of insignificance. This time around, I thought about time lapse as being a window into witnessing human geology.

Some of Koyaanisqatsi's ideas ask very difficult and moving questions. For example, the movement of traffic always reminds me of blood cells moving through the veins of all of us. This poetically begs the question, "are we all just specks working together for something bigger?"

The moonrise into frame and vertical moonset behind the building within 30 seconds asks "as humans, how much of nature do we wish block from our lives?"

One of the classic views upon Koyaanisqatsi which I share with others, is that through viewing human traffic we are able to see how our lazy, sedimentary distopia has spawned the cities we have constructed. There are still many mysteries to the film which still elude me. For instance, the collapsing of the buildings has a significance that I have yet to discover.

My favorite moment in the film is the metaphor drawn between the hot dogs on the conveyor belt followed by a shot of people ascending on the escalators (which resemble the hot dog conveyor belt.) To me it says, "consumers are mass produced, artificial products, just like processed foods." Let's face it, you are what you eat, right?

~Matthew Wright

(PS: Don't let the label that says "organic" fool you. You are not eating straight from a garden.)

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