This file was generated 2003-08-26 05:15 GMT. This movie's information hasn't changed since 2003-06-07.

Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> January 1998 >> Koyaanisqatsi


Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
5 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Dates on Record:
January 1998, December 1998, November 2000, June 2003
IMDB Name:
Koyaanisqatsi (1983)
Godfrey Reggio
MPAA Rating:


Any more, very few movies really capture the imagination of the viewer. Koyaanisqatsi is definitely the exception. Director Godfrey Reggio isn't tied down by dialogue, character development, or even characters! Koyaanisqatsi (a Hopi Indian term) is a movie in the largest sense, showing the insanity of the scale at which we live our lives. Reggio uses accelerated and decelerated footage of very ordinary people and places to give a new sense of the immense volume of movement in our lives.

Smooth Glass

Any review of Koyaanisqatsi would be remiss if it didn't mention the work of Philip Glass. Glass's score imposes a very real sense of urgency on the audience, providing just as much aural sensation as the visual. The music is available separately, and I highly recommend it, even if you might not be a big fan of minimalism.

When watching this movie, try to put the audience in isolation. The ringing of the phone can really upset the flow of the movie, and talking during the movie should also be discouraged. You'll never have to ask the person next to you "what did s/he just say?" so don't say anything at all!

New Recording

In case you haven't heard, Nonesuch has issued new recordings of the score for Koyaanisqatsi. I find them to be a bit sterile, and lacking in some of the urgency of the original, but there is a lot more music to enjoy. Several of the segments have been expanded to their full length, and a few missing pieces have been restored. The quality of the production, with fifteen years of technological advancement on its side, is much better. Glass himself is also thankful for the years of advancement in the performance practice of his music, but fans may find it too staid. Hopefully, when Koyaanisqatsi is issued on DVD, both the new and old recordings will be available as separate audio tracks.

DVD Comments

Home Video Difficulties

According to, the official site for Reggio's movies, the distribution rights for Koyaanisqatsi are in limbo. The Institute for Regional Education is soliciting donations to help with the legal fight and also to produce Naqoyqatsi, the planned third movie in the series. In the meantime, a private issue of the DVD is available for a contribution of at least 180 USD.

One of my friends has forever cemented his fanhood by contributing 180 USD. Thus have I had the privilege of seeing the "Director's Premium Edition". Once you accept that the transfer is fullscreen, the picture seems flawless. The disc is quite spartan, containing only a 5.1 remaster of the original recordings. The surround sound mix is very strange, including oddities like having the first "s" in "Koyaanisqatsi" come from behind while the rest of the word originates at the front. Unfortunately, the mix is very muddy, and the vocals in Vessels are almost completely obscured by the synths and the orchestra at points.

The disc is split into nine chapters with breaks in odd spots. Each is between ten and fifteen minutes long, and the divisions are in spots that seem random to someone familiar with the music from the CDs. There is only one menu screen, and it has only one control. Thus, the disc wins by default for the easiest menu design I've seen yet.

See the IMDB information on Koyaanisqatsi's DVD.

Copyright 1998-2003 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.