Life Out of Balance

February 15, 2020
Steven McCormack
2 min read

I thought I'd write a little about a film that has fascinated me for years; Koyaanisqatsi. A film with zero dialogue, zero plot and zero cast. Instead, we are treated to a visual experience unmatched since its release in 1982.

I came across this title in an entirely unsophisticated manner; via the GTA IV trailer I had been keeping an eye out for in 2007. I was mesmerised by the trailer, and once I realised it was in homage to this film, I wasted no time in ordering the DVD. Now even that scenario sounds ancient as I type it.

So why is it so fascinating? Well, on one level it is pretty damn cool. A haunting soundtrack, an array of time lapse shots and a general sense of mystique is hard to argue against in my book. Plus, I was totally into the whole retro look at the time.

Yet the film left a deeper impression, one that feels more significant with every passing year. It captured the mid 1970s, to the early 1980s; a time long since passed in terms of fashions and hairstyles. Not exactly a groundbreaking observation, admittedly.

The twentieth century, at its zenith.

Viewed at a more granular level, however, and things get interesting. We see people commuting, busy cities and nuclear power plants. We witness a sea of concrete, glass and steel. We see America and the 20th century at its zenith.

Consider the broad themes; centralised commerce, technology and power generation. Society anchored around a standard working day. Masses of people, following a regular pattern of travel, between work and home. An industrial lifestyle built to serve an industrial environment.

That world is surely dying, if not already dead. Shortly after I first watched Koyaanisqtasi, the 2007 credit crunch occurred. That developed into the full blown financial crisis of 2008 and the great recession of 2009. Then followed a ten year period of (relative) calm.

Enter our favourite year, 2020. The Coronavirus is our immediate concern, and rightly so. Yet the real victim is the economic carcass we have propped up since 2008. Now I've had plenty to say about this already, so I shall step off the soapbox (for now), and conclude our amateur film review.

The twentieth century, now rejected.

Koyaanisqatsi portrayed an inefficient, unnatural and unfulfilled world. Koyaanisqatsi was a rejection of the industrialised society. Yet it could only offer a glimpse of a better future; observe the contrast between the opening scenes of nature, and the closing scenes of destruction, for example.

To return to the soapbox for a final moment (sorry), we are now at the point of defining that future. We are on the cusp of delivering a decentralised, digital-first environment. One that I shall be exploring in great detail in future posts.

Now go and watch the damn film!

Ko.yaa.nis.qatsi (from the Hopi language), n.

  1. crazy life
  2. life in turmoil
  3. life out of balance
  4. life disintegrating
  5. a state of life that calls for another way of living.


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