An Interview with Godfrey Reggio

Godfrey_3portrait_large
13 January 2014

Following his latest film, Visitors, we spoke to the director behind the innovative Qatsi trilogy.

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Park Circus: Our aim at Park Circus is to promote the big screen experience. How important do you feel it is to see and appreciate your films in a cinema and as part of an audience?

Godfrey Reggio: Not only the film, but how it is shown is critical for the cinema experience. The how of cinema is the dark room, the big screen, the voice of the theater - a social solitary event. Cinema theaters are the medium in which this elixir may touch and enthrall an audience. The routine of theater viewing, dressed in its technological setting, is as old as the camp fire stories of mothers, sages, and elders.

Voices capturing the imagination in a timeless story well told. Quite a different experience from the multi-tasking frenzy of the ubiquitous small screen. While the information of image is present, its voice is muted, its miniaturized emotive impact incomparable to the immersive experience of big screen cinema.

Koyaanisqatsi

Koyaanisqatsi

PC: With no dialogue and an emphasis on the score and cinematography, tell us what it is like preparing for your films from the genesis of the idea?

GR: My films are a cinémonad, a cinema that is beyond boundaries of conventional theatrical and documentary films. As these films are different from the norm, so the making of the films will of necessity differ from the manner in which conventional films are conceived and produced.

Art is the medium, a process of discovery its modus operandi, collaborative creativity its form. With more to say than can be spoken, the cinema I offer is aimed at the solar plexus. It is directed at the viscera, not the mind. To feel the subject, to affect the audience is the intention. Poetic cinema is the approach.

In foregoing logical discourse and linear story, poetic cinema opens the screen to the play of the aesthetic triplets: Sensation, Emotion, and Perception. The films forego the path of the intellect in favor of intensity, spontaneity and impression, and through them shine a light on the invisible truth of who we are and the reckless path we are on. This autodidactic form invites and engages the aesthetic triplets that reside within us all. Even as the film unspools, it is each member of the audience that must become the storyteller, must become the character and plot of the film. This is a cinema to speak to the heart and this is the process I use in my attempt to achieve this.

Naqoyqatsi

Naqoyqatsi

PC: Did you always envisage the Qatsi films to form a trilogy?

GR: When I began Koyaanisqatsi in 1975, my thought was, should I complete this endeavour? Life would have offered me a fullness beyond satisfaction. I was committed to the film, not with grace or gratuity, but like unto an insane asylum.

As the film developed, so did I. In a conversation with Philip Glass early on in the process, he remarked that things go best in threes. This was music to my ears. Everything I do embraces, for reasons I do not understand, three as the matrix. At that moment Philip and I agreed that the Qatsi trilogy should be born.

PC: How personal are your films? Is collaboration important?

GR: As a film director, I am everything from a mother to an assassin. The film must satisfy my sensibilities, my muse. They are not made by committee. I do not make films, I live them. I am like unto a blind man that sees through others eyes, like a deaf person that hears through other ears.

These films are far beyond my capacity to achieve. I always select collaborators that are more talented than I. Collaborative creativity is the form and clearly the most difficult where art is concerned. To participate in this forum, a strong ego is required.

However, vanity of ego, no matter how talented, is not productive in collaborative art. The artistic team, all having access to the "mainframe", must arrive at the point of "one heartbeat, one breath" if one film is to be made. Our goal, the magic of collaboration, is the many - the one.

Powaqatsi

Powaqatsi

PC: Your films have always been experimental and truly stand the test of time. Are you excited by changes in technology available for filmmakers to exploit? Do you feel there is enough experimentation in cinema?

GR: I do not consider my films to be experimental. This is for the realm of science. These films are experiential. Rather than giving you information or telling you a story, these are stories to behold. They are called experiments, because they differ radically from conventional cinema with no market category in which to house them. They are a meta-language (the language of art) of image and music to conjure an experience that may affect the viewer. The meaning of art is the experience of it - everyone sees a different picture.

PC: Who or what influences have you had as a filmmaker? Are there any particular filmmakers or even a film period that stands out?

GR: As a young Catholic monk, I worked with street gangs in the barrios of Northern New Mexico during the 1960s and early 70s. During this period, I had the occasion to view Luis Buñuel's, Los Olvidados.

Entertainment was not in his vocabulary. His film touched me. It was a spiritual experience, a watermarking that will stay with me for life. Being so moved, I purchased a 16mm copy of the film and regularly screened it in the alleys and on the walls of the barrios of Northern New Mexico. I could see it's powerful impact on the faces of the young men and women who were immersed in the reciprocal gaze of the screen. Los Olvidados created my interest in cinema and lead me to begin Koyaanisqatsi in 1975.

http://youtu.be/4rBPgGWW0VA

PC: The notion of dreams is an ever-recurring theme in cinema, notably taken up recently by Christopher Nolan. Do you feel the theme of 'dream versus reality' cuts to the essence of what cinema is about?

GR: We live in a world more real than true. The reality we claim as ordinary daily living could be our twilight of the real. My cinema dresses nighttime images in the light of day, revealing the confusing twins of dream and reality, to offer a moment of waking consciousness, to play the joker's card, "A dawn without a day." Reality is the dream. To feel the price we pay for the pursuit of our technological happiness is the intent of my cinema.

Godfrey Reggio's Qatsi trilogy is available for theatrical bookings. Koyaanisqatsi is now available to book digitally. For more details, get in touch with us here.