Koyaanisqatsi Review

Film Review

For those that have not seen this film, it cannot be stressed enough that it is best approached with minimal information. There are as many different interpretations of what the film is about as there are people who have seen it. For this reason, this review will strive to remain neutral and concentrate on the technicalities of the film itself.

The film itself consists of a series of images that merge into each other and set to the score of the legendary Phillip Glass. And that is about all you really need to know to decide if this film is for you. It would be incorrect to say that this film has no plot. There is a plot, but it does not unfold in the standard way. Instead, the films’ imagery and music combine to create the artistic space necessary for the viewer to construct their own plot. If this sounds a little highbrow, rest assured that the film is as accessible as it is beautiful.

Koyaanisqatsi translates as ‘life out of balance’ and the film attempts to portray on the screen the mode of life in the western world. The cinematography, by Ron Fricke is superb and captures extremely well the dynamics of the modernist world. Every shot has the characteristics of a great work of art.

The thing that cannot be denied is the impact that this film has had on most forms of media. Many of the images have become familiar through rock videos and adverts, but to call them clichéd would be a disservice. Archetypal would be a kinder term, and seeing all the images together as they are meant to be seen gives them a whole different weight and meaning. It’s just a shame that the wonder that the original audience must have felt at seeing these images for the first time cannot be shared.

The most complimentary thing to say about the print quality is that it is not bad. Presented in anamorphic wide screen, it suffers a little from grain and appears quite soft in some segments. It must be noted that the segments of the film presented in the documentary that accompanies the film seem much cleaner and clearer and it is a shame that the whole film had not had the same treatment as the source of these clips.

A very respectable 5.1 remix. Some very good steering here, and a full, deep, satisfying sound. Excellent.

Not really all that much in the way of extras on the disc. This is a little disappointing, given the films age and reputation. There is a 25-minute documentary, which is best viewed after the main feature as by this time the viewer will have their own interpretations of the images and music and, interesting as Glass and Reggio’s opinions are, it would be a shame if they were to cloud your own.

There is also a trailer for Koyaanisqatsi itself, and one for the sequel Powaqqatsi.

Incidentally, this film is bundled in a double pack that contains Powaqqatsi, so if this can be called an extra, then it represents fantastic value.


To quote a dreadful cliché, this is more of an experience than a film. It is well worth purchasing, even more so in the double pack that contains the sequel, Powaqqatsi. This is a film that could well change your life, and will at least question the way you think about the world. And see if you can spot Tom Selleck.

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