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Pick of the Week: Religion from Naqoyqatsi

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The strings take over the main theme at 1:18 – from Religion from Naqoyqatsi

In simplest terms Godfrey Reggio's Qatsi films present the viewer with images and give him/her time to sit and think about the meaning of those images. Yes, Philip Glass' music influences the way we think about those images, which are usually tough to deal with as they are very close to veritable mirrors into which we are looking, but in the end they are poignant images which reveal something about ourselves.

The film Naqoyqatsi received mixed reviews. There are probably mixed reasons for that which I won't really go into. However, in this section which I'm highlighting Reggio deals with so much in so little time.  This section, which on the soundtrack is called Religion, deals mostly with the spectacle of celebrity in all its forms and its followers.  It is a rumination on the symbols of celebrity, everything from Hollywood to the Capitol to sports heroes.  In these images, and they way they are presented, the viewer is challenged by his/her own emotional reaction to them.

We see world leaders walking down a hallway surrounded by the press, set up against sports stars being mobbed by photographers, then we're thrown into a mix of CGI celebrities walking the red carpet in front of manic paparazzi, then a slew of "real" celebrities and finally the throng of followers, i.e. you and me in one form or another. 

It is the most poetic challenge to the "great man" myth I can ever think of.  The myth that there actually exist people that possess such an ability to do certain things that are worthy of worship.  The entire sequence is to me a very pathetic display of society's heroes and toward the end we are given the image of the baby in space, quickly followed by a big-baby looking sports fan prostrate at some sort of "heroic accomplishment" in our modern temples, the sports stadium.  

Of course the obvious part here is that or great symbols are futile and pathetic and that we've been indoctrinated since birth to buy into them.  Hmmm, I wonder why this film didn't do better?

Meanwhile, musically I believe Glass was in earnest when he stated that he wrote for orchestra to be warmer and more human to counteract the images which are mostly artificial and digitally manipulated.  This low point (high point) of the film has its musical equivalent in Koyaanisqatsi in "The Grid."  It's the proverbial "how can this be?' moment in the film.  The realization and acceptance that this is actually who we are and we have to deal with it.

6 thoughts on “Pick of the Week: Religion from Naqoyqatsi”

  1. “Religion” and “Primacy of Number” are my favorites of Naq. I have to say Naqoyqatsi is my least favorite of the trilogy’s, but watching the clip makes me want to revisit it.

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