By Lara Bradshaw
Let’s say you’ve “temporarily” closed your eyes, dropped your highly engrossing economics reader to the floor and opened your mind to a dream world of kaleidoscopic images capable of stimulating even the most coffee-tested nerves. This is where the film “Naqoyqatsi” comes into play.
Director Godfrey Reggio’s final installment in his Qatsi trilogy, “Naqoyqatsi” paints an open color wheel of reds and greens while traveling boldly into a dream-like examination of politics, American pop culture, violence and globalization (just to mention a few). Taking the title from a Hopi term for “war as a way of life,” Reggio showcases interconnecting images taken from documentary footage and his own computerized graphic manipulations to create a visual platter of eye candy.
After Reggio’s first two films, “Koyaanisqatsi” and Powaqqatsi”( the latter made over a decade ago), this final piece to the puzzle brings ideas of civilization and war to visual life on screen. Technology was an underlying force in his previous works, and it is a fundamental element in “Naqoyqatsi.” This is graphically represented in montages, typed symbols and even the onslaught of nuclear bombs exploding over land. It is interesting to note that the director’s critique of modern technology becomes paradoxical when recognizing the extensive use of computer technology used in much of the film’s production.
Through a stream-of-consciousness style of editing and flow, the musical arrangement in this film follows a similar developmental pattern as the visuals. The world-famous arranger Philip Glass created the music, along with the cello soloist Yo-Yo Ma. Combining Glass’ ethereal sound with the successive barrage of images works to effectively conjure deeply layered, sensually pleasing textures.
The film takes a precarious stance on where society is headed – to hell, quite possibly – particularly in a striking display of several, varying body images. The body is shown first in a montage of flesh and bones. Next an infant is shown juxtaposed against a series of sculpted, athletic bodies in motion. Leaping, sprinting and swimming to unobtainable heights, these bodies are of the utmost perfection. Later on, the human form is manifested as a collection of celebrity faces, perhaps signifying American culture’s increased preoccupation with such inconsequential figures.
The true beauty in this film, though, is the rich, artistic sequencing of so many images. “Naqoyqatsi” hails from the tradition of art cinema and succeeds in reminding its audience that a vast amount of room still exists for artistic interpretation in a visual medium like film. The concepts are not strikingly difficult to understand. However, that’s not the film’s purpose. It exists as a spectacular jolt to much of modern cinema’s contrived style and format. The film snidely pokes at pop culture while wholly embracing an uncharted visual complexity. Just be prepared to hit the pillow afterward and have dreams more vibrantly insane than when the roommates decided to make those special brownies a few months back.