From Academic Kids

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The juxtaposition of nature and civilization in Koyaanisqatsi

Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of balance is a documentary film directed by Godfrey Reggio which consists mostly of slow motion and time-lapse (fast motion) footage, starting with cave paintings and desolate desert landscapes, progressing to footage of various natural environmental phenomena such as waves and cloud formations, and then to footage of man-made events including mining operations, traffic formations, commercial passenger aircraft, demolition and desolate urban landscapes. The film invites comparison between various natural and technological phenomena. For example, a slow-motion shot of crashing waves cuts to one of clouds billowing around a mountainside and aerial shots of cityscapes cut between macroscopic shots of integrated circuits.

The movie has no dialogue but does feature the Hopi word koyaanisqatsi, a concept translated as "life of moral corruption and turmoil" or "life out of balance." "Koyaanisqatsi" is chanted at the beginning and end of the film in a dark, sepulchral basso profundo by singer Albert de Ruiter over a score by Philip Glass. Three Hopi prophecies are sung by a choral ensemble over the film's final few minutes and are translated just prior to the end credits:

  • "If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster."
  • "Near the day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky."
  • "A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans."

The film was made over the course of about six years, three of them spent in shooting and three of them with Reggio and Glass working together on the music: Glass turning in a composition, Reggio recutting the footage to fit it better, Glass recomposing what he'd submitted, and so on.

The movie credits Jacques Ellul, Guy Debord and Ivan Illich for its basic inspiration at the end of the film.

Out of print for over a decade, Koyaanisqatsi was rereleased on DVD in late 2002. Much of the reason for the film's disappearance from the market centered around a complicated rights dispute. Reggio's Institute for Regional Education claimed original copyright on the film, but Francis Ford Coppola was also contending for the film's rights, as it had been funded through his American Zoetrope studio. The film had originally been distributed through Island Entertainment/Palm Pictures, which had subsequently been sold to PolyGram - and after the dissolution of PolyGram Pictures, the entire PolyGram film library had been sold to Metro-Goldwyn Mayer. The IRE released an independently-financed DVD production of the film to raise money for the film's future preservation, but the current mass-market version has been released through MGM.

Koyaanisqatsi is followed by the sequels Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi and the shorts Anima Mundi and Evidence. Naqoyqatsi was completed after a lengthy delay caused by funding problems and premiered in the United States on October 18, 2002. [1] (

In 2000 the United States Library of Congress deemed Koyaanisqatsi "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

The film's cinematographer, Ron Fricke also went on to direct Baraka, a documentary which is often compared to Koyaanisqatsi.

The Philip Glass Ensemble has toured the United States, playing the music for Koyaanisqatsi live, in front of the movie screen.

The chanted koyaanisqatsi lyric was parodied in the P. D. Q. Bach piece Prelude to Einstein on the Fritz, being replaced with the lyric Coy Hotsy-Totsy.

The Simpsons parodied Koyaanisqatsi in the episode Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder. There is a fast-motion sequence when Homer oversleeps, accompanied by music very similar to that in the film.

The fast-motion cinematography of Koyaanisqatsi inspired subsequent films and music video, including the Madonna video to Ray of Light.

Part of the musical score is used in the UK TV Advertisement for the environmental organisation The Carbon Trust.

External links

fr:Koyaanisqatsi it:Koyaanisqatsi zh-min-nan:Koyaanisqatsi


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