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

Koyaanisqatsi - Life Out of Balance Reviews

Page 2 of 59
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.
June 24, 2015
A fantastic story told by great shots and mesmerizing music.
½ June 5, 2015
Obviously the work of a visionary mind, "Koyaanisqatsi" is an extremely well executed collage of mesmeric proportions. Philip Glass' score is for the most part masterfully woven into the fabric of Godfrey Reggio's film. Both hypnotic in its own right and concurrently serving as a pre-apocalyptic essay on the grim follies of mankind, this is basically a masterpiece.
June 3, 2015
A must see for any true fan of cinema.
May 21, 2015
Inspirational. The soundtrack composed by Philip Glass is what really stands out.
½ April 21, 2015
Boasting gorgeous visuals that are cleverly juxtaposed and contextualized to posit questions about the nature of human existence over time and an otherworldly score from Philip Glass, "Koyaanisquatsi" is a masterfully constructed and brilliantly original piece of work offering visually poetic insights into the human condition that both thrill and perplex.
March 23, 2015
Philip Glass is beast. Period.
March 3, 2015
Basically, there is madness and beauty in nature and in humanity. Clouds, oceans, people - all flow through their environments, shaping them, passing on, being forgotten. Each of our lives is but a drop in a sea of humanity. Make your life count for something. Love people. Care about things. Do good.

Oh, and people are hotdogs.
March 1, 2015
omgwth did I just watch? Beautiful but I doubt the current generation has the patience to watch.
½ February 4, 2015
The first entry into the Qatsi trilogy is the best. Koyaanisqatsi stands today as one of the most influential experimental/documentary films in film history.
December 31, 2014
I don't usually like this sort of thing however this is an exception. It's bold, haunting, at times monotonous but consistently thought-provoking.
December 29, 2014
It begins as a magnificent music video, slowly turns into a horror, and then reveals itself as a tragedy. Although I'm certain the particular version of narrative I created around the film for myself (which is devoid of spirituality, environmentalism, and criticism on modern life/technology) is peculiar and idiosyncratic, I'm fairly sure the film will evoke the same range of emotions in different people for different reasons.
½ December 22, 2014
Hypnotic, and profound. Probably Phillip Glass' best OST as well.
December 1, 2014
When I watch "Koyaanisqatsi," I don't want to breath. I don't want to blink. I want to see every frame, every change in its footage of clouds and traffic and bustling people. The intended meanings of Godfrey Reggio's film are suggested in its environmental imagery, in its focus on industrial civilization's high speed and large scale, and by the translation of the title: "life out of balance." But meanings, and the fact that the film's use of raw footage is more propagandistic than documentary, are of secondary concern. "Koyaanisqatsi" is a powerful work of art because is a pure sensory experience. Long cuts of sped-up landscapes and cityscapes are set to a Philip Glass score, and the effect is utterly mesmerizing. The first time I saw it, I only noticed at the end that my hands had been gripping the armrests. Comparing a film to a roller coaster is a cliché, and in this case it doesn't do the film justice; I've been on roller coasters that have less effect on my adrenaline than "Koyaanisqatsi."
½ September 3, 2014
The vastness of what is 1980's american and corporate power.
½ August 14, 2014
What's Most Scary Is How Industrialised The World Was In 1982!! ..The World 'Updates' Itself Even Faster Now.. I Can't Fathom How We Might Be In Another 30-40 Years Time.. 2050 Will Most Likely Look Even More Out Of Balance.. Less In Touch With Nature.. On Which We Will Always Rely.. No Matter How Superior It Feels To Be Connected, Technologically Advance What Have You.. Where Does It Stop??
August 3, 2014
Boring as hell, soundtrack is annoying as hell, image quality is subpar for today's standards. Yet some pictures are interesting and captivating. I believe it will be more valuable in the future to shed light on human history.
½ July 6, 2014
Super hypnotic. It's fascinating and an experience to watch. When I first saw it in college, I thought that anyone going into film should watch it. Because music is such an important part of film that I feel many filmmakers underestimate. And this movie is a great study in how music can tell a story, convey emotion, and leave you with an impression. It's direct point is about nature vs. humans and our technology and lifestyle clashing with the natural wonders around it. At first it seems heavy-handed but as it goes on, it becomes more subtle and seems to celebrate people being inherently a part of nature, despite their destructive effect on it. (At least that's how I interpreted it) It's also kind of fascinating to see what was considered "modern" in 1983. The film acts as sort of time capsule since technology has come so far in such a small amount of time. There were several machines and such that I was completely clueless about. I highly recommend this movie but don't know that everyone would appreciate it.
Page 2 of 59