Naqoyqatsi  (2002)


Director: Godfrey Reggio

Rating: PG

Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Date: October 14, 2003
Review posted: December 1, 2003

Spoilers: None


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




In this cinematic concert mesmerizing images are reanimated from every day reality, then visually altered with state-of-the-art digital techniques, to chronicle the shift from a world organized by the principles of nature to one dominated by technology, the synthetic and the virtual. This film concludes the Qatsi Trilogy, preceded by Koyaanisqatsi ("Life Out Of Balance"), and Powaqqatsi ("Life In Transformation").




Of all three films in the trilogy, I like Koyaanisqatsi the most. It's simple, yet so complicated and mesmerizing. The numerous montages, like the city life and workers at the factory, are just so compelling to watch. Director Godfrey Reggio pays a lot of attention to detail. He places the camera in situations and places to capture moments most people never get to see. Many of the images in Powaqqatsi are magnificent in the way they portray the subjects. A small child walks along a dirt road as an enormous truck drives by. Others are of grand landscapes and people living their lives. The most powerful images are clearly present in the second film. However, Powaqqatsi tends to go on tangents. Essentially, both of these films have their themes. They are not alike in the way images are captured and appear, but they are connected by designs of evolution.


Naqoyqatsi fits into this design by displaying how technology has infiltrated our societies and lives, either by force or choice. As much as I wanted to like Naqoyqatsi, I just couldn't. My problem is mostly the subject matter. Well, in this case, it's the presentation of the subjects and its images. Unlike its predecessors, Naqoyqatsi is presented in a most unusual way. Images are visually altered with state-of-the-art digital techniques, distorting them and thereby creating a weird sea of pictures crawling across the screen. Despite great efforts to create rousing images, I just didn't connect with them on a visual level. They just seem too abstract. Some images look fantastic and rousing, but in general they are not as powerful as those in Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi.


Clearly the best aspect about Naqoyqatsi is the music by Philip Glass (The Hours) and Yo-Yo Ma. Their music is an opera, yet it also tells a story by the way notes are arranged and played. I love to listen to music, and I don't mean Kid Rock or Coldplay. Compositions, either classical or film scores, are just so relaxing. In this film the music plays a very large role; it accompanies every image and montage. With Glass composing and Yo-Yo Ma playing the cello, Naqoyqatsi is a terrific auditory experience. In that regard, the film provides a rousing presentation. I'm not dismissing Naqoyqatsi based on its visual presentation. I simply didn't connect with the images, but the music guided me through the film.


The Video


Buena Vista presents Naqoyqatsi in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colors are quite vibrant and well-saturated at times. On other occasions they are a bit subdued. Colors detail is nice. The print image is pretty clear. I didn't notice any grain or compression artifacts. A lot of shots in the film are enhanced by CGI or other forms or distortion. These scenes look pretty decent, but not pristine by any means. There is certain clarity in this presentation, but not throughout the film.


The Audio


Buena Vista presents Naqoyqatsi in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. There is no dialogue present in the film, only the beautiful and effective score by Philip Glass and Yo-Yo Ma. This presentation accentuates the score a great deal. The front speakers are clearly hard at work, giving the soundtrack some good dynamic range. Surrounds act up as well, but not on a consistent basis. The overall soundtrack presentation is very nice. The amount of clarity and precision is so good due to the magnificent score.


The Extras


Thankfully, Buena Vista didn't hand us a barebones release. Life is War is a pretty brief discussion about the film with director Godfrey Reggio and executive producer Steven Soderbergh. Next is Music of Naqoyqatsi: A Conversation with Philip Glass and Yo-Yo Ma where the two discuss aspects of the film and score. A decent NYU panel discussion is also included. Rounding out the extras are bonus trailers for Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi.




Naqoyqatsi features some incredible images, but they're too abstract for my tastes. It's the fantastic music that makes this film a rousing experience. Video/audio quality is perfectly fine. For film enthusiasts, a rental will do just fine. Anyone else should check out the first two films in the trilogy before thinking about the third one.









OVERALL (not an average)









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