From the Hopi language, Koyaanisqatsi is a word that roughly translates as "crazy life," or "a life out of balance," or perhaps more appropriately, "a way of life that calls for another way of living." Incidentally, that's exactly what this film shows: no plot or story, just a document of the modern age of man, far out of balance from nature, which calls for human beings to adapt to their own constructs.
This film doesn't offer any conventional story with any characters; it's purely an experience built from images and sound, to illicit thought and feeling in the viewers. Both the images and music are beautiful in their own ways: with Phillip Glass' epic, well-structured music score, the film takes on a palpable rhythm and mood that perfectly accentuates the gorgeous scenery. The film plays around a lot with time-lapse footage and slow-motion, which serve to show common cityscapes in an invoking new way. Altogether, the film is as hypnotic and mesmerizing as it is thought-provoking.
This film was cobbled together from all kinds of footage filmed across the United States from 1975 to 1983, with a tight budget. Regardless, the filmmakers show superb prowess with their photography and editing skills. At least on a technical level, they've maximized their potential and tools to craft an audio/visual masterpiece, weaving the images and music to the themes implied with the term Koyaanisqatsi.
As far as the content goes, like any piece of art, it's left to the viewer's interpretation. The most opaque of themes will revolve around civilization's progress, the depletion of nature, and the effects of technology and industrialization on the human race. There are times in the film where humanity seems triumphant, and other times where it feels like it's spinning out of control in a downward spiral of chaos and destruction (especially in one of the film's final shots, depicting an Atlas-Centaur rocket exploding; it's a sequence that's always hit me the hardest, given the combination of imagery, music, and the overall theme that human civilization rises so high, but will eventually crash and burn).
Watching this film is not only a treat for the eyes and ears, but also a sobering, moving experience unlike any other. I believe it truly represents the best and worst of the human race in the modern age, and everybody should see it at least once in a lifetime.
5/5 (Entertainment: Perfect | Content: Perfect | Film: Perfect)