Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 13th, 2014
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1982 (Koyaanisqatsi), USA, 1988 (Powaqqatsi)
Director: Godfrey Reggio (Both Films)
Writers: Ron Fricke, Michael Hoenig, Godfrey Reggio, Alton Walpole (Koyaanisqatsi), Godfrey Reggio, Ken Richards (Powaqqatsi)
Cast: Lou Dobbs, Ted Koppel (Koyaanisqatsi), Christie Brinkley, David Brinkley, Pope John Paul II, Dan Rather, Cheryl Tiegs (Powaqqatsi)
BluRay released: May 12th, 2014
Approximate running times: 86 minutes (Koyaanisqatsi), 99 minutes (Powaqqatsi)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Films)
Rating: PG (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1, DTS-HD Stereo (Both Films)
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £27.87
Neither of these films have a conventional narrative. And trying to surmise into a synopsis what they are about would be an injustice to them. They best way to sum them up is via the definitions for each of their titles which appear in each 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
po?waq?qa?tsi (from the Hopi language, powaq sorcerer + qatsi life)
n., an entity, a way of life, that consumes the life forces of other beings in order to further its own life
Though film is often described as a visual media, the overwhelming majority of them are driven by the words that are being said in them and the images often become background fodder. In regards to Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi not word is uttered, not even a single syllable. With the only thing on these two films soundtracks being Phillip Glass’s extraordinary scores.
The fusion of these two elements creates a hypnotic experience that effortlessly lends itself to being open for interpretation, thus given control to viewer instead of the leading the viewer where you want them to go. And if ever there were a film that perfectly captured the essence of the phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ then that would be these two films.
To say that these two films are truly unique visual experiences would be an understatement. It is safe to that most viewers have never seen a film like these two films. And just how much you get out of these two films ultimately comes down to ones willingness to embrace the way that information is being relayed with an open mind.
Each film comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay and they are both presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The image looks crisp, gain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression. Overall quality wise the transfers for these two films is on par with Criterion’s region A Blu-Ray release for these two films.
Each film comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix and a DTS-HD Stereo. There are no spoken words in these films; the soundtrack is just the music of composer Phillip Glass. Both audio mixes for both releases offer up a fully engrossing audio experience that always makes sure that Glass’s score sounds appropriately robust.
Extras for Koyaanisqatsi includes a trailer for the film (2 minutes 9 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), a insightful introduction to the film by composer / filmmaker Gary Tarn (3 minutes 39 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and a featurette titled ‘Essence of Life’ (25 minutes 8 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) with comments from director Godfrey Reggio and composer Phillip Glass who discuss in great detail the involvement in the film and their thoughts on the final product.
Extras for Powaqqatsi includes a trailer for the film (2 minutes 5 seconds – 1080 Progressive 1.33:1 aspect ratio), a short film also directed by Godfrey Reggio titled ‘Anima Mundi’ (29 minutes 5 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and a featurette titled ‘Impact of Progress’ (19 minutes 55 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) with comments from director Godfrey Reggio and composer Phillip Glass who discuss in great detail the involvement in the film and their thoughts on the final product.
Rounding out the extras is seventy page booklet that contains new writings about Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi, written by Anton Bitel, Michael Brooke, Peter Cowie and Jean-Baptiste Gouyon. Overall this is an impressive release from Arrow Academy who not only give these films solid audio / video presentations, they have also assemble a wealth of insightful extra content that helps put these two films and their legacy into proper perspective, recommended.