Koyaanisqatsi - Life Out of Balance - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Koyaanisqatsi - Life Out of Balance Reviews

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½ July 16, 2017
If you don't know about Koyaanisqatsi it is a movie without a plot, script, dialogue, characters, or basically anything you'd expect out of a typical movie. It basically defies genre classification, and felt more like the director just dug through a massive pile of stock footage. The visuals started out with some beautiful shots of nature, but then moved into the city. It shows us the hustle and bustle of life for about an hour.

The visuals weren't bad, and they did a lot of time-lapse footage, so a vast majority of the film is moving at a blistering pace. I'm not sure why there were also some slow-motion shots mixed in there and even some that seemed to be still photos, but it was all shot well. I almost suspect if I were to watch this movie in a theater it might actually hold my attention. That was a big problem for me watching it at home, my mind kept wandering.

The movie I found myself connecting with Koyaanisqatsi was Disney's Fantasia. That movie is also focused on linking unique visuals with some music. However in place of the gorgeous classical music of Fantasia, Koyaanisqatsi has Philip Glass play some of the most obnoxious and repetitive strains of music I've ever heard. This soundtrack could be used as a torture device. I kept begging for relief but it wouldn't let up and there was very little variation in the melodies.

I tried to make it through, but I had to take a break about halfway into Koyaanisqatsi. The speed of the images and the monotonous music became too oppressive. I wanted to be able to brag that I enjoyed this unique approach to film-making, but it simply annoyed me. It's an artistic piece and I applaud those who can find a way to enjoy it. Personally, I'll probably stick to more traditional films in the future, but at least I can say I gave avant-garde a try.
½ April 23, 2017
The barrage of image and sound that assaults your senses is not likely to be forgotten any time soon. It's hard to describe what the film is about or represents, as everyone can take away something different. Point is, you SHOULD see this movie.
½ March 22, 2017
Some very wonderfully shot scenes and an excellent musical score.
½ March 1, 2017
Some of the original shine has worn of off this film for me. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful looking film and Glass's score is amazing. I just can't shake the feeling that all of this is in the service of a pretty asinine idea.
February 15, 2017
Koyaanisqatsi is so jaw-droppingly beautiful and evocative that it demands to be seen, but it never goes further than the surface of its images, never probing into what makes mankind and nature beautiful.
½ January 19, 2017
A film that truly is an important visual essay of man's domination of landscape & the world we have created.

Starting with only images & then the haunting & memorable music of Phillip Glass this film starts with the rawest natural landscape of the USA & capturing the beauty of what is still left.

Then with much speed & progression we move to the concrete jungles of LA & NYC & then we truly are taken to another with speed up footage & a dramatic score. This film is a terrific experience...
December 12, 2016
Best visualisation of thoughts and feelings ever
November 29, 2016
Some really striking imagery in this but I feel it was far surpassed in future instalments i.e.) Baraka But taken in context of the time and being the first, it would have been mind blowing. Still totally worth watching, even if the Glass score can get a tad overbearing at times.
September 14, 2016
incredibly beautiful
½ August 2, 2016
must watch. great for a hangover or comedown.
May 19, 2016
Without a doubt the most important film I saw in high school. Should be ranked along with 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 as essential framework for our collective definition of "progress" and "existance". Phillip Glass' haunting score will echo in your ears for days and is a worthwhile experience separate from the film. I was privlidged to see him perform it live.
½ May 7, 2016
Very well shot but overall slow with an uninspired message
April 27, 2016
My favorite part was when things were exploding.
December 13, 2015
A masterpiece from 1983, it would make a great education piece fior schools. Just imagine too what a contemporary iMax or 4K remake would look like.
December 11, 2015
Without any voice narration, the film has told a great story. I like it.
½ November 11, 2015
"Koyaanisqatsi" is a film meant to be experienced. It has no narrative or dialogue, just an 85 minute string of images with an accompaniment of music by Philip Glass. The main significance in the film seems to be the contrast between nature and civilization. There's an obvious environmental message at play, but the film is getting at something much more grand and cinematic as a whole. The ultimate cornerstone of "Koyaanisqatsi" is the cinematography and music. When the film focuses on nature at the beginning, the camerawork and music is majestic and slow, but when we cut to focus on civilization, it's chaotic and fast-paced. "Koyaanisqatsi" is a purely cinematic experience that never has a dull moment and ends on a high note.
½ November 1, 2015
Beautiful film /documentary / poetic essay or whatever you wish to call it, this is a wonderful feature narrating the rise of modern, corporate and capitalist society in which we have lost ourselves, forgetting our true roots and connection to nature. Through images crafted admirably and edited in an unusual fashion, the film unfolds before our eyes giving us an overview of the state of our world and how the so called industrial revolution has indeed impacted our lives and lifestyles. It's a remarkable film.
September 22, 2015
A unique experience that everyone, regardless of taste should witness.
September 17, 2015
As soon as you hear that a film like Koyanisqatsi (or any of the 'Qatsi' movies, it's technically a trilogy) is no dialog, no 'story' in the fictional-character sense, and is driven by a marriage of landscapes (in the realms of deserts and mountains, and the modern urban sprawl) matched to Phillip Glass music, you'll know whether this sounds like something to watch. Some will not want to go anywhere near it. And yet this is one of those rare films, like many silent-era motion pictures, and Disney's Fantasia, that can be shown in any culture, anywhere in the world, and people don't have that element of communication keeping people apart or at a distance, or in need of translation. What is shown in Godfrey Reggio/Ron Fricke's Koyaanisqatsi (aka "Life Out of Balance") can be generally understood, at least if one follows the progression of one image to another - which, to not be snobbish, is kind of what filmmaking is essentially about - in giving the impression of what happens when one moves from the barren-natural world of mountains and deserted, rocky land, and that built upon by humans in cities.

And what is there in cities but technology; we need energy to survive, and cities have to provide energy, and, for myself this is one of the main thrusts of the film, people in cities feed off of that energy. Reggio and cinematographer/writer/Fricke (the latter would go on to make films in a similar, visually-aural-driven range with Baraka and Samsara) are all about charting how things are breaking down, and yet constantly moving. They accomplish much of this visually by showing things in slow motion and fast motion; what you see sometimes today on YouTube or Vimeo of cameras being tested at the high-frame rates and the low F-stops - for camera people, think of getting a camera to 3 frames per second, and conversely at 3,000 frames per second, or something extreme like that - and you get the idea of the visual ambition here.

It took years to make this film, and yet it was all driven by what is essentially in the documentary form - showing the world as it is. A documentary will be 'scripted' after the film has been sought out and shot. But the experiment here, what sets this film apart so much from other films in the world, documentary or otherwise, is how the filmmakers have to give any messages through the flow of visuals - and the music. Interestingly, Phillip Glass scored the film in twelve sections, and then the director heard this music and re-cut the film to fit the music. So it's like one has to fit with the other, and it goes without saying this is music as intense as you'll hear in a movie. It will sometimes go to a slow crawl, with the organ playing smoothly, and then other times, as the montages ramp up and people move about in the masses and through places and in cars and on the streets, the music is not so much setting the mood of the players as keeping in exact lock-step with what's on the screen. It's a rush.

At first, I didn't know about the technological-focused scope of the film, and it opens with the shots of the mountains and deserted plains and so on, and I thought this would be it for the film - not bad in the slightest, but... is that it? But the transition into the sections on the cities, with it first seeing the urban decay and poverty in cities (I think it's New York, it's hard to mistake it at that period of the time in the late 70's and early 80's as anything else). Then, buildings come crashing down in demolition, which continues the notion, I think, of building things up only to have to crumble them down again when they're no longer good. And then, in the main chunks (and certainly what people will probably remember most from Koyaanisqatsi), the many, many people walking, driving, going through transit, playing video games (seeing Ms Pac-Man in fast-speed is a highlight), and also how things get moved along in factories like hot-dogs and jeans.

The great thing about the film, if one meets it all halfway, is that it doesn't really hold your hand about anything. One person may take this as being a condemnation of how modern society operates in cities - and this is 35 years ago, one wonders how Reggio and Fricke see this all today, with people now not even looking forward as they walk or move but at their phones and laptops - or, on the other hand, a person may take this as an ode-to-joy, a symphony of technological breakthroughs and how people co-exist with one another (aside from the building collapses, there's no real violence depicted... well, aside from the MEGA violence that comes with nuclear blasts, which are I assume stock footage in part). There's no one interpretation with a film like this, or others like it like Baraka.

For myself, I think it's a grand provocation of the human spirit and what we're capable of, about if we are taking things for granted. There's all this technology, and it's so easy to get around in cars and (in America, relatively) easy to navigate around from place to place. Yet there is in parts great poverty in areas people may not care always to look, especially when skylines go up high and people are successful. And the film ends on an aching, poetic note of a part of a rocket (or is it a spaceship) coming down in slow-motion, to that one Glass organ. I hope to return to this again and again.
½ August 13, 2015
Mankind, earth and universe. Mankind is destroying it piece by piece every second. Evolution goes faster and faster. A documentary or just a piece of reality, even though its filmed in late 70s and early 80s, now its even worse a thousand times.
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