The principle that the filmmakers were seeking to illustrate was that while colonization comes in diverse forms, it is always destructive in the end -- even if the means are through economic domination rather than brute occupation. So-called "civilized" societies prey upon the Third World for their own gain, thereby ravaging the spirit of its people, depleting the natural resources of its nations, and tainting the uniqueness of its cultures.
The film reveals scenes that the U.S. media often fail to show -- the backbreaking labor and environmental destruction inflicted as offerings to the Almighty God of Profit. Worship at the altar of financial markets generates our wealth (the trilogy's first film, Koyaanisqatsi, covers technology- and consumer-based culture), yet as we acquire greater strength and contentment, our business practices shorten the life span and deteriorate the quality of life in weaker countries. The extraction and importation of their very vitality seems to be the fundamental wellspring for our Gross Domestic Product, essentially amounting to a lopsided transaction akin to parasitism.
For contrast, the music for the soundtrack incorporates energetic elements of this highly valued commodity from faraway lands: pounding rhythms, intricate phrases, meditative passages, foreign melodies, exotic harmonies, and even a dynamic children's chorus. This soundscape was intended to provide a sense of the heart and soul of the camera's subjects, i.e.Read more ›
The filmmakers also have decided to focus solely on the grim side of culture, and there are so few smiling faces here that it makes you wonder if two-thirds of the people in the world live each day with grim, depressed looks on their faces. By using slow motion so much, they tend to pull the dynamic side of life completely out of the picture, and it grows old very quickly. Where are the playing children? And as another reviewer said, they left out the abominable side of the third world, such as beatings and executions, and they've also left out the graft and corruption that make it difficult for anyone to help people in these countries.
I felt all along that I was being manipulated, forced to watch images of their choice so that my worldview would become what they desired my worldview to be. As a film, this is much better watched in segments, music piece by music piece, perhaps, as it does grow old after half an hour or so. All in all, this is a beautiful effort, but beauty, of course, does not make for substance and depth (or even cohesion), which are elements that this film is lacking.
POWA (Powaqqatsi) focuses on life for people mainly in the southern hemisphere. Please also view my review of KOYA (Koyaanisqatsi), which I will complete shortly after submitting this. I plan to soon purchase NAQO (Naqoyqatsi) and will review that as well (obviously I found the film concept entertaining).
KOYA focuses on the northern hemisphere's lifestyles of living with technology in all aspecfts of their lives while POWA shows life that is more driven by manual labor. Yet as the movie progresses, you see more and more hints of the introduction of technology, which will inevitably wind up permeating and consuming the current culture. Watch for the placement of a SEIKO billboard, which really stuck in my mind.
It can be difficult not to feel some sense of pain for the people's lifestyles, but please stay open- minded to an understanding that perhaps the lifestyle that DP's Graham Berry and Leonidas Zourdoumis documented is what the subjects being filmed are most comfortable with. Watching POWA first, however, may take the whole trilogy out of order and context for you. That's why I suggest that you purchase the two- DVD set. And I'm sure that plans have been in the works to release the trilogy as a boxed set.
Make certain also to watch director Godfrey Reggio's comments (highlighted with composer Philip Glass). They give insight into filming and Reggio also addresses viewer/critic feedback.Read more ›