reed’s review published on Letterboxd:
While I'm a huge sucker for beautiful visuals, for some reason I wasn't expecting to love Koyaanisqatsi. I'm not sure why, exactly, although hearing about it being 90 minutes of nature/city shots with zero dialogue or plot I guess can be sort of daunting.
Yet from the very first shot I was absolutely hooked. Koyaanisqatsi works its magic so eloquently... it tells a story not through dialogue and characters, but through images and music. And, oh god, the MUSIC - It's Philip Glass at his most glorious; minimalist, yet melodic and amazingly orchestrated. He also makes use of electronic instruments, and what he produces is one of the greatest film scores of all time.
It may same like a simple topic; nature vs. man; man vs. technology; technology vs. the world. Or something to that effect. Perhaps that is the "big statement" of this whole film - a warning about the destruction of nature due to technology employed the people. But sometimes a movie can transcend a "theme" and become a spiritual experience all on its own. I think Kyoaanisqatsi does that.
The opening shots of nature are probably my favorite part, not because they're anything "too special" but because, man, I just love scenic nature shots. I have legitimately just looked up "beautiful nature" on youtube and sat for an hour or so just gazing at all the pretty views. And while Kyoaanisqatsi uses those pretty views just to destroy them later, its also so beautiful in the moment.
To me, this film is so much more musical than I was expecting. Especially nearing the end (the hot dogs and the escalator, the people walking) had a rhythm to it that I haven't seen in other movies. It surges forwards, as the music gets faster and more out of control. I felt like I was in an action/horror movie because my adrenaline was getting higher and higher. The technology gets bigger and better (and uglier) and slowly but surely it comes to this huge climax that was absolutely beautiful.
Right now, I'm listening to the score again. I can't re-iterate enough how perfectly it fits the film. Glass is a composer I really really encourage you all to check out, especially if you liked this movie. His string quartets and violin concertos are some of the best uses of minimalism in music I've heard. His opera Einstein on the Beach is also well worth checking out.
There's so much to think about here. It feels rare to say that a movie with no plot and no characters "had you on the edge of your seat the whole time", but this feels like that rare occasion; please, please check out Koyaanisqatsi and don't be fooled by its unique style like I originally was.