NavTrav’s review published on Letterboxd:
Where do I even begin?
I never expected to connect with a movie which is basically made up of music and long shots of different locations around America in slow motion and fast forward. At this point it's not just music and shots weaved together, but a unique and fascinating experience.
Koyaanisqatsi in the Hopi language means Life Out of Balance. The movie is an examination of man vs. nature. Starting off with amazing photography of western desert landscapes, throughout the film we see a transition from nature in all it's beauty to man-made destruction- In turn creating for ourselves a crazy lifestyle. This movie begs to ask the question - can we ever live in harmony with nature? While we might think we can, we are lying to ourselves. In nature's point of view we are destroying it creating an imbalance that is dangerous.
The best part of the film is it's music. Without the original score by Philip Glass, the film would probably be a bore and uninteresting. But the tone of the score is so powerful it actually gives life to the film conveying it's message just through the cinematography and music rather than having a million dialogues trying to explain it all.
Shots like a factory in the middle of nowhere surrounded by magnificent mountain and the fast paced life in the city are powerful. It gives you sense of where we are headed. One thing that is clearly evident about human nature is we create and we destroy with more destruction than creation.
I personally kept thing what shots would be added to the film if it was filmed today? And some of the things I could think of are the following,
1. iPhones and iPads with people on it all the time even at dinner and in bed.
2. Fewer people in the streets in the neighborhood with less face to face human interaction
3. Development of wind mills and solar panels to find new form of energy
4. Eating a lot of processed food causing a health epidemic
5. Sitting home and gaming all day on the consoles.
6. Car factories and textile manufacturers shutting down as everything is imported.
The one thing lacking from this film is the emotions of people. But since the film does not focus on humans themselves, but rather on our surroundings, it is fair to say it accomplished what it set out to do. But just for example, using the film's format and applying it to today, it would be hard to show the emotion of fear in today's America where people are paranoid about not if, but when the next bad thing is going to happen. It's unfortunate how the world is completely out of balance far away from the harmony we need.
It's not to say that the movie does not have any positive elements. It does show mankind's abilities to learn and invent new things. But in the end the price of knowledge is destruction. There is a lot of talk about this film and I could write an essay if I wanted to, but if you are a cinephile I definitely recommend this film for an experience.