MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Directed by: Godfrey Reggio
BY KEVIN CARR
As a film fan and a critic, I am the first to admit that there are plenty of classic and significant films that I haven’t seen. One of the biggest voids in my cinematic experience is not having seen Godfrey Reggio’s “Koyaanisqatsi.” It has been something that I have been meaning to correct for years, and after seeing his latest film “Visitors,” it has moved to the top of my list to seek out and experience.
However, even without the background of the significance of “Koyaanisqatsi” and the entire Qatsi trilogy, I can appreciate the work of cinema artistry that is present in “Visitors.”
Like the Qatsi films, “Visitors” is visual poetry and art. It’s not a straightforward story; it’s not even a straightforward message. Instead, it is a mosaic of images that the viewer must interpret for him or herself. To some, that might seem like a lazy endeavor for the filmmaker – and in the hands of someone less than Reggio, I’d agree with that statement, considering many weaker-minded directors hide their flaws with intended interpretation.
However, there’s a deliberate message buried in “Visitors,” and while it’s a challenge to watch at times, it is worthy of being examined.
Taking a much more simple approach than his other films, “Visitors” looks at the human race and how it interacts with itself, nature and technology. By slowing things down and lingering on extended shots of individuals – particularly their faces – Reggio holds a mirror up to the camera.
Part of the code within “Visitors” is to interpret the emotions and setting of the individual faces. With its delivery of slow- motion shots, black-and-white photography and stark imagery, Reggio achieves a level of removal from the familiar human condition.
“Visitors” is not something that one can watch why he or she is farting around on social media or running around the house doing busy work. It demands concentration, which can be challenging for an at-home watch. It works best in a quiet, reflective setting. Maybe that would be the real miracle of the film, to get people to slow down for 87 minutes of their day and try something different.
The film is made with a minimalist approach and doesn’t have as much scope as I understand is presented in the Qatsi films. It’s also quite different and restrained from other Qatsi-inspired films like the brilliant “Samsara.” Perhaps this is both its challenge and its albatross.
Yes, “Visitors” makes you slow down enough to attempt to interpret your own version of Reggio’s message. However, with a few exception of interesting imagery, certain lingering shots can become repetitive and tiring.
Still, “Visitors” is a significant film and one that is worth checking out in the appropriate context.
The Blu-ray comes with a “Behind the Scenes” featurette that includes interviews with the films’ key players. Some of these interviews (with Reggio, Jon Kane, composer Philip Glass and producer Steven Soderbergh) are presented in extended format in relative uncut scenes. Additional bonus features include “The Making of VISITORS (Vice/The Creators Project) and trailers.