"Life out of balance": that's what the North American Hopi express with the word koyaanisqatsi. Collaborating with Philip Glass and co-screenwriter Ron Fricke, Godfrey Reggio made this famous visual essay in 1982 about life in North America. It took three years to shoot the images and another three to edit them and compose the soundtrack. At first, the camera slowly glides through the deserts and gorges of the western United States, across the vast plains and rock formations that let us visualize earth before the arrival of human life. Gradually, man arrives, developing and cultivating that expansive landscape. And then Reggio shows what he's really interested in—the theme he further explored in Powaqqatsi (1988) and Naqoyqatsi (2002): the place that man and his technology occupy in nature. Using repetition and acceleration, the film shows the endless traffic flow and assembly lines and the seemingly self-organizing chaos of human life. Despite the title, Reggio always claimed the film doesn't depict a "problem." Instead, Koyaanisqatsi simply shows the primacy of technology in our lives.
Godfrey Reggio for Institute for Regional Education
Ron Fricke, Alton Walpole