Koyaanisqatsi is an hour-and-a-half long documentary about the intersection between humanity, nature and industrialization. The word Koyaanisqatsi is derived from a Native American word meaning “life out of balance.” Directed by Godfrey Reggio and scored by the incomparable Phillip Glass, the film takes the viewer on a tour of human involvement in nature, and the “natural” world that we have created for ourselves. We see atomic bomb detonations in the Nevada desert, cumulus clouds moving across towering skyscrapers and decaying housing projects, and endless assembly lines manufacturing cars, jeans, and hot dogs.
The documentary attempts to connect our existence to technology. It relates to the roles we perform in our relationship to the endless daily industrial processes that encompass our lives, and our relationship to the grandeur of the natural world that we are destroying. Technology is ubiquitous in our existence. During several parts of the documentary, a trio of Hopi prophecies are intoned over the imagery we witness: “If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster,” “near the day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky,” and “a container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans.” As Reggio comments on his film, “it’s not that we use technology, we live technology.” Koyaanisqatsi is an enthralling and visually arresting commentary on our disintegrating relationship with the world and with reality through our own self-destructive industrialization.