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Film Review: Powaqqatsi

Powaqqatsi is the second of the qatsi trilogy and revolves pretty much around its tagline “Life in Transformation”. It once again follows the visions of Godffrey Reggio and the music of Philip Glass as the 96 minute audiovisual treat attempts to take you on a journey of experience, thought and emotion.

The biggest change for me was the general direction of the piece. Where as Koyanisqqatsi made more landscape and time lapse photography, Powaqqatsi is dominated by humans. This leaves us with a sizeable proportion of the film staring into the eyes and faces of various cultures and nameless people. This makes the film much less passive and I recommend you need to really be in a specific mood to watch the feature as if you aren’t ready to engage it full on, it will completely miss you.

Some of the footage however is mesmorising. The opening segment in a Brazilian gold mine is mind boggling, seeing thousands of people in ant lines working together for a common goal tolerating all kinds of conditions. There is also a segment where various media adverts for perfect living a hammered at you. The way how it jars you and almost repulses you is quite genius. There is also a great short scene where a small child stops and stands aimlessly infront of a pro-war graffiti.

The music has a recurring theme in amoungst some great world music compositions from Glass and while its more diverse than its predessor, its actually more seemless and drifting so it doesn’t pull you right up and scream at you.

From the interviews that are on the DVD, Powaqqatsi is all about the southern hemisphere that is being eaten alive by the efforts of the Northern hemisphere’s daily procession. I found that angle on the film really quite intriguing and upon a second watch now knowing that knowledge, different symbolisms take on a new meaning for me. Powaqqatsi is not going to be any more accessable than Koyanisqatsi. I actually didn’t take as much away from it as the original, but it still packs a punch and left me feeling a bit more dismayed with the world as a whole but with feeling a need to change burning in the forefront of my mind and for that, it’s certainly done its job.

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