Your Moment of Zen

This is a short film by Dutch filmmaker Bert Haanstra — his first, incredibly. Beautiful images woven around a theme so simple it can be stated in the two-word title: EVERYTHING FLOWS.

I like this and I like KOYAANISQATSI. I met Godfrey Reggio in Telluride last year — he was very nice and he was eighty-seven feet high, which is probably what gives his films the lofty sense of perspective. He looks down at us and we are as ants scurrying about the earth. Now, some don’t care for KOYAANISQATSI, and I guess I sort of understand — the Monthly Film Bulletin summed its message up as an old hippy axiom, “Nature good, cities bad.” Which is pretty banal, I admit, but not quite what I get from the film — some of the city images in it are outstandingly beautiful — it is only some ASPECTS of the city that are bad. And that may be banal but it is also true, and it seems unfair to fault Reggio for the banality of the universe, especially when he expresses it so beautifully.

I admit — we have all seen too much time-lapse and heard too much Philip Glass since then.

But seeing and hearing them in such abundance and for the first time made a big impression on me. I was hypnotised. When I showed my college friend Simon he remarked halfway through that he’d just realised he’d been frozen in position for forty-five minutes. Since it large excludes regular people activities in medium shot, the movie offers no cues for the viewer to relax along with the characters.


So yes, I like KOYAANISQATSI, but the Reggio owes a debt to the Haanstra, which is even more beautiful.

Seeing the film, Pudovkin remarked that he always thought Holland had people in it. Haanstra modestly said he wasn’t quite ready for people.

Haanstra is probably best known for TRAFIC, on which he tried to collaborate with Jacques Tati but got silently elbowed out. SOme of his footage did make it in — by this time, Haanstra had started making observational docs with people in, and his eye for behaviour had convinced someone that he was a natural partner for the great French clown, a man with no partner and no place for partners. Let’s all get to know Haanstra’s own work.


6 Responses to “Your Moment of Zen”

  1. I guess James Nares’ Street is the Koyaanisqatsi for people who love cities. Have you seen it?

  2. First, a taste of P. D. Q. Bach. I was rather hoping someone had put up the whole piece, “Einstein on the Fritz”, and I thought of doing it myself but I’m a bit wary of courting a music publisher’s wrath.

  3. And count me as a detractor of “Koyaanisqatsi” I guess. It’s been a long while since I’ve seen it and maybe I’d think differently now but I remember being just plain annoyed by the obviousness of the imagery. A stream of people on an escalator looks just like hot dogs on an assembly line! A woman trying to smoke a cigarette in slow motion looks stupid as she’s fumbling with her lighter! The Challenger disaster mocks humanity’s lofty ambitions! Thumbs down.

  4. Epic! Both of them!

  5. To me, Koyaanisqatsi seems to be about the evils of the modern world / technology. The hypocrisy of illustrating this thesis with some of the most high tech film equipment of the day keeps me from being that enthralled with the film, although I enjoy it well enough while it’s on. I prefer the work of his camera man Ron Fricke, Chronos more than Baraka.

  6. Film is inevitably somewhat technological. But I never thought that technology per se was the film’s target.

    Baraka seemed a bit random to me, and alas I haven’t seen Chronos. Or the last ‘qatsi film, come to that.

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