Director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass reunite in this follow-up to 1982’s Koyaanisqatsi. As with its predecessor, the film is entirely without words or story, and acts as much as an illustration of Glass’s score as a conventional film.
The two films adopt many similar themes of progress and development, as well as its costs on people and the planet. But where Koyaanisqatsi focused on the virtues of nature against the blight of humanity, Powaqqatsi takes a more nuanced view.
It’s a much more personal film, focusing on human faces far more than its predecessor, which preferred big, anonymous crowd scenes. It also dwells more extensively on the beauty of human culture. Travelling the world, it showcases cultures and ways of life of stunning variety.
It also doesn’t shy away from the hardship of life, opting to show many scenes of back-breaking manual labour. The footage is so naturalistic that there’s something almost voyeuristic about it at times, although I presume those people featured agreed to participate. Reggio once again shows that he has either the knack or the patience to capture incredible moments that stay in the mind, with some of the best cinematography I’ve seen, courtesy of Graham Berry and Leonidas Zourdoumis.
The more optimistic tone is reflected in Glass’s score, which moves away from the doom-laden pulses of Koyaanisqatsi and instead draws its inspiration from music around the globe. Here Glass’s passion for international music exhibits himself, and as with his iconic collaboration with Ravi Shankar he manages to infuse these sounds into something distinctly Glassy.
The end product is lighter and arguably more accessible than Koyaanisqatsi, providing a second, albeit less revolutionary helping of its superb scoring and cinematography.