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Powaqqatsi


After viewing Koyaanisqatsi I couldn’t wait to see Powaqqatsi: Life in Transformation which is its 1988 sequel, again directed by Godfrey Reggio, and the second film in the Qatsi trilogy. Searching for it at the video store I eventually found it in the documentary section. Not surprising really – it is a visual, musical documentary of sorts although again, as with Koyaanisqatsi, it has no dialogue at all.

‘Powaqqatsi’ is a Hopi word meaning ‘parasitic way of life’ or ‘ an entity that consumes the lives of others for its own survival’. Whereas Koyaanisqatsi focused on modern life in industrial countries, Powaqqatsi, looks at developing countries and traditional ways of life with their emphasis on physical labour and new ways of life that are introduced with industrialization. As with the ealier film I had to concentrate to pick up the drift of the ‘message’ – the skill of the cinematography and the music drag your senses away from any simple assignment of intent in relation to this beautiful film.

The cinematography is intensely beautiful and perceptive – the film-makers’ curiosity and keen eye entertains. The soundtrack, again written by Philip Glass, stands alone as superb, modern, classical music. And the music blends perfectly with the cinematography – the cutting and editing must have been a huge task. The vocals are particularly haunting. As the wikipedia review notes here ‘…human voices (especially children’s and mainly from South America and Africa) appear more than in Koyaanisqatsi, in harmony with the film’s message and images’.

A fine film.

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