The Great, Unnamed Cinema Genre: ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ and the “Experiential Documentary”
In 1982, director Godfrey Reggio released his first feature film as director, the documentary Koyaanisqatsi. A beautiful, complex, dialogue-free work that was a partnership between director Reggio and cinematographer Ron Fricke, the movie operates without a traditional narrative, opting instead to immerse the viewer in a series of awe-inspiring visuals that build thematic resonance throughout the 86-minute experience.
Reggio originally wanted no title at all, simply a nonsensical symbol. He eventually opted for the title Koyaanisqatsi, a Hopi word that the film gives five definitions for: “crazy life,” “life in turmoil,” “life out of balance,” “life disintegrating,” and “a state of life that calls for another way of living.” The title is an appropriate encapsulation of this cinematic experience.
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