Life as War.
Whether your intellect is completely engaged or passively detached, any viewing of Naqoyqatsi is likely to provoke a fascinating response. You can view it as a magnificent, visually stimulating music video (as critic Roger Ebert suggested you should), or in context as the third and most unsettling film in director Godfrey Reggio's "qatsi" trilogy, each titled from the Hopi language, and preceded by Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi ("Life out of Balance" and "Life in Transformation," respectively). "Life as War" is the translation of this film's title, and Reggio's theme is not one of conventional warfare, but of daily life as warfare in the age of rapidly evolving technology. The entire trilogy views humankind as a blight on the pristine nature of Earth, but here the theme is taken to its inevitable extreme: a constant flow of new and archival images--manipulated with solarization, digital enhancements, thermal effects, 2-D and 3-D animation, etc.--combine to convey athletic and military regimentation, culminating in the doomsday flowering of missiles, rockets, and all varieties of nuclear weaponry. The cumulative effect, when combined with Philip Glass's mesmerizing score (his best of the trilogy, with cello solos by Yo-Yo Ma) is one of doom-laden portent, but, as Stephen Holden observed in the New York Times, the film is also arrestingly beautiful as it weaves its hypnotic, apocalyptic spell. For those who wish to delve further, Reggio, Glass, and editor/visual designer Jon Kane provide valuable insight in a bonus panel discussion. --Jeff Shannon