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Naqoyqatsi

Naqoyqatsi

By Patrick Samuel • January 6th, 2014
Static Mass Rating: 3/5
NAQOYQATSI (DOCUMENTARY)
Miramax Films

Original release: October 18th, 2002
Running time: 89 minutes

Writer and director: Godfrey Reggio
Composer: Philip Glass

Naqoyqatsi

The story of The Tower of Babel is one that’s endured centuries and continues to be told by those reflecting on society during whichever era they’ve lived in. As it’s told and retold again and again, its relevance seems to become stronger each time, or maybe it just seems that way because we’re living through it right now.

Found in Genesis 11 1-9, it tells of a time when humanity, after the Great Flood, spoke a single language. The people, after migrating from the east, came to the land of Shinar where they decided to build a tower so high it reached up to the Heavens. God, seeing this and not being pleased, scattered the people all across the Earth and gave them different languages, breaking their unity as they were no longer able to understand each other.

Naqoyqatsi, which in the Hopi language means a life of killing each other or civilised violence, is the third part in Godfrey Reggio’s Qatsi trilogy and it begins with a well-known image of The Tower of Babel. It then goes on to present us with footage depicting how the modern world continues to suffer as a result of our confusion with each other. Buildings, rock formations, the tides, binary code, marching soldiers, military tanks and fractals are all used to tell this story in the first fifteen minutes.

The images take their time, allowing us to absorb them as they move from sports, recreation and achievements to hunger, disease, rioting and full scale combat as man turns against itself. There’s a hallucinogenic sequence which shows famous religious paintings all bleeding and dissolving into each other, the effect reminds me of stories told by those who’ve taken LSD and I can imagine that’s what reality looks like under such mid-altering drugs.

Naqoyqatsi

From there Naqoyqatsi moves on to the final sequence; a ballet in space, mixing images of sky divers with those of the stars, cruise missiles and space stations. Similar to Koyaanisqatsi (1983) and Powaqqatsi (1988) in the way Reggio uses Philip Glass music to show us this world at war, this concluding chapter in the trilogy is both fascinating and unsettling, but at the same time it fails to show us something that hasn’t already been touched on in those two previous films.

Released just one year after the September 11th attacks and the start of the US lead War in Afghanistan, I was surprised to find that Naqoyqatsi didn’t touch directly on these events, events that show life as war. Rather than tackling them head-on Reggio settles for just hinting at them with footage shown of US marines fading to white before the final sequence brings the film to a symphonic close.

Despite some truly thought-provoking moments I can’t help but feel that Naqoyqatsi, like Powaqqatsi, was not as great as Koyaanisqatsi. That first film managed to capture the zeitgeist of the early 80s perfectly while this one merely hints at the horrors of the early 21st century where we continue to build and destroy countless towers like Babel.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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