More than a movie, the experience of Koyaanisqatsi was released in New York City this day in 1983. The first movie from director Godfrey Reggio centers on the feeling brought about by watching and listening to the tale. In fact, the first of the Qatsi trilogy concentrates purely on the landscapes of the world and avoids any character storylines or dialogue. In the Hopi Indian language, the title Koyaanisqatsi means “a life out of balance.” With the use of a haunting score by Philip Glass and stop-motion photography–from footage taken between 1975 and 1982–Reggio has made a movie that challenges its audiences to interrupt the unbalanced world he brings to life on screen. However, as an experimental documentary there are many meanings that could result after viewing. This is perhaps the reason the movie has gained a large cult following in the years since its release.
Factoid: Beyond Koyaanisqatsi, Reggio completed his trilogy with Powaqqatsi (1988) about the cultures of natives in the Third World and Naqoyqatsi (2002), which brings to life its title’s definition, “civilized violence.”