Friday, May 02, 2014


Directed by Godfrey Reggio and written by Reggio and Ken Richards, Powaqqatsi is the second film of the Qatsi trilogy as it focuses on the industrial age as third world countries struggle with their traditional ways of life and their conflict with the emergence of modernism. Like its predecessor Koyaanisqatsi, the film is told in a non-narrative style that explores a world that is in great struggle with the demands of modern society. The result is an eerie yet ravishing film from Godfrey Reggio.

The film’s title is translated from the Hopi language as life in transition as the film explores third world countries like Peru, Brazil, Kenya, Nepal, and India adjusting to the world of industry and modernism while wanting to maintain their old way of life. Especially as it creates a sense of disharmony where people who don’t live in cities want to maintain a way of life that is very simple and not complicated as opposed to the city that is often dirty and chaotic. It’s a film that not only conveys that message in a way that is both beautiful and unsettling but also infuse with ideas of spirituality where the world of industry wants to modernize things only to cause pollution and despair. The film does have a unique structure as its first half largely features these gorgeous images of a world that isn’t modernized yet has no need to be.

The images that director Godfrey Reggio and his cinematographers Graham Berry and Leonidas Zourdoumis reveal in that first half are just gorgeous as it’s a world where time slows down as everyone does something where they’re in a place full of nature and beauty. Though not everything is great, at least it doesn’t have to deal with technology and such as they know what they need and what they don’t need. Through their work in farming and such, there is a spiritual element that makes it seem so pure as Reggio shoots most of it in slow-motion and in normal time. Once the film reaches its second act and plays into this transformation of a life of tradition colliding with the emergence of modernism. Much of the direction in both halves are filled with some close-ups, wide shots, and medium shots as well as some aerial shots to play into that world that is transforming.

With the help of editors Iris Cahn and Alton Walpole, the film starts off in this meditative approach filled with slow-motion shots and stylish montages filled with dissolving layers of images as it would later be sped-up a bit in the film‘s second half. Notably as the images that Reggio and his cinematographers showcase will be filled with this strange mix of people trying to maintain their simple way of life amidst the chaos of the city and modern world. Adding to the disparate tone of the film is the music by Philip Glass as his score is this mix of bombastic yet low-key orchestral music with brooding electronic minimalism. Much of it involves sound textures that play into this conflict that is happening in the film as Reggio maintains that sense of intoxicating imagery to play into a world that is transforming.

Powaqqatsi is a phenomenal film from Godfrey Reggio as it’s definitely a worthy follow-up to its predecessor Koyaanisqatsi. The film itself does stand on its own for not just the way it place into a world that is being forced to change into the modern world but the struggle to maintain an old way of life. In the end, Powaqqatsi is a remarkable film from Godfrey Reggio.

Godfrey Reggio Films: Koyaanisqatsi - Naqoyqatsi - (Visitors (2013 film))
© thevoid99 2014

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