Review Written by: Brian Huddleston
Directed by: Godfrey Reggio
Written by: Godfrey Reggio, Ron Fricke, Michael Hoeing and Alton Walpole
Produced by: Godfrey Reggio
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it!
I know that choosing a documentary as a subject for a review may leave a few DVD buyers left out in the cold, but there's something quite magical waiting for those with an open heart and mind. This is one of those kinds of miracles of imagination and artistry that rarely shows its head. This documentary takes a moment of time and through the magic of moviemaking, brings life itself turning into an artform.
The documentary doesn't have dialogue and is pretty much a collection of images collected by a camera, with time either slowed down or speeded up so that the viewer can see life moving in so many ways. What Reggio does first is show us the natural beauty that many of us often think about through the speed of our daily lives. The stunning life that exists within the clouds, the waves of the ocean...even mountainous landscapes and rocky valleys. The camera increases speeds that it seems God is living through the clouds (at one time a wave of water slowed down almost looks like the hand of God). The camera is one of many reasons to buy the dvd. After Reggio spends some time showing us the natural landscapes and such, we move into the death of things. This seems morbid, but in a way it is and in a way it's not. The camera captures old buildings with their broken windows and scattering denizens who reap in the final days they get to spend with these old places of time. Reggio lets the camera examine these old relics as they seemed to represent to me the end of an era. The buildings as they stand with this camera as their witness slowly are blown with dynamite. I felt as if I was watching an execution. That's what this documentary can do when one allows it to work. Then Reggio changes and moves us into the rapid climate of people as they work, travel to their destinations, play their arcade games and walk around the mall. Reggio uses slow motion and rapid speed to show these people as if they are merely traffic one minute and the next an important image of a certain time that is now past.
Reggio shows us the lights of vehicles in the night (in rapid speed) as they travel to places unknown as we watch them as merely light. This is literally mindblowing. These speeded up images of driving cars heading for some unknown destination merely speeded up to a high density could be as profound through a form of filmmaking. Reggio shows the many shiny buildings with their mirror-like windows (one shot shows the clouds bouncing their reflections from these windows). There's even an amazing shot of a large moon passing by one building which is so powerful to behold I was almost driven to tears. The way Reggio and crew speed up time showing days (the sun plays a big part in the effect) seemingly passing by within seconds is astonishing. As the documentary progresses Philip Glass's score heightens. Glass's musical work is so important towards the impact of the viewer. It adds that layer within how this work effects us. It lives within the images. There are some powerful images of people...almost willing subjects, trying to simply go somewhere, who become images of time frozen within a camera lense. I often thought of these people as they pass in front of us, slow motion, with the viewer seeing a total stranger simply living in a time that has gone.
The DVD is a must for those who like this sort of experience. It isn't a film, but a record of life and time. Many consider it an indictment on mankind and technology. Many consider it a representation of the moderation of mankind. I consider it a record, sped up and slowed down, which shows us living breathing people going to destinations unknown. I also feel it's a record of the beauty of things we often pay no attention to..somehow we miss the life that exists in things such as clouds and water.
The DVD is an MGM product. It has a fascinating interview with Reggio and Glass as they discuss what the documentary actually might mean or how it works on many levels. It has original trailers for the entire "Qatsi Trilogy." The DVD I own is a beautiful widecreen edition with marvelous sound. I highly recommend it.