Wednesday 27 January 2016

Naqoyqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, USA, 2002)

Autumnal monochrome: a long, slow zoom-in upon a three-dimensional rendering of Pieter Bruegel’s painting The (Little) Tower of Babel (c. 1563). Corkscrewing upwards from the ground the expansive
base of the edifice supports a conical structure, still far from complete – and apparently already in the process of disintegration. In every way, an impossible project. Everything appears unstable, askew; the construction sinking into the ground upon which it has been built; the non-perpendicular arches (supporting the gentle incline of the spiral concourse) a threat, the spectre of collapse. A male choir chants ‘na-qoy-qat-si.’ The drumming of a heartbeat. Cut to an image of the disused and decaying Michigan Central Railway Depot: first the murky, dank interior; then the exterior in glorious sunlight. The camera explores this neo-classical architecture cutting between vertiginous crane-shots, extended tracking shots and almost imperceptible pans. Pulsating cello repeats phrasing, orchestral strings gather and shimmer. A raging sea – heavily digitalised. Mountain tops, the stars slash the dark firmament with light. A river, the still surface reflecting the clouds of the sky above – insubstantial forms that race and churn in fast-mo doubled as mirror images. A purely digital environment: black space mapped with a flat grid of white contour lines; the animation erupting to create a complex, flourishing conical structure – a structure reminiscent of and echoing Bruegel’s tower.

So begins Godfrey Reggio’s Naqoyqatsi, a film composed of hundreds, thousands of disparate visual-images, accompanying and accompanied by the music-images of Philip Glass. This is gaseous perception.

To read the full exploration of Naqoyqatsi through the Deleuze's sign of 'gaseous perception,' see Deleuze's Cinema Books: Three Introductions to the Taxonomy of Images

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