“Until now, you’ve never really seen the world you live in.” – Tagline of Koyaanisqatsi (1982)
When I first read the synopsis of Awaken it triggered a memory – about film. “The film explores humanity’s relationship with technology and the natural world.”
“That reminds me of Koyaanisqatsi” – I thought.
And then I saw who one of its executive producers were – Godfrey Reggio – the writer, producer, and director of Koyaanisqatsi.
Honestly, I gasped discovering that. And I’m glad I was not disappointed with Awaken.
For those unfamiliar, Koyaanisqatsi is an experimental film that explores our relationship with technology through a stunning montage of mostly slow motion and time-lapse photography, along with a soundtrack composed by Philip Glass.
Awaken is a similar movie, but for the 21st century. Using modern technology (drones and 4K digital video), Awaken has visually stunned me in the same way when I saw Koyaanisqatsi for the first time.
The soundtrack (composed by Joseph Trapanese) is superb. Can’t say anymore.
The only criticism I can give to Awaken is the use of narration by Liv Tyler. It doesn’t matter who does it. It’s the fact it’s there – and in English. Koyaanisqatsi had not narration at all “because, from my [Godfrey Reggio’s] point of view, our language is in a state of vast humiliation. It no longer describes the world in which we live.” It’s why its title is from the Hopi language, meaning “unbalanced life.” Partly due to this, Koyaanisqatsi has an ageless quality, despite depicting scenes from American life in around 1980, Pac-Man included.
However, since 1982, the English language has become Planet Earth’s default language, partly thanks to the internet. Because of this, a modern audience may not be bothered by Liv Tyler’s whispering voiceover, due to being accustomed to such voiceovers in other media. It doesn’t distract from the film. It barely happens throughout its 80-odd minute runtime, so it’s not worth kicking up a fuss about.
Apart from that nit-pick, I really liked this film. Especially its drone shots of Dubai at night. Particularly when the drone follows along the freeway, like it was actually following the cars speeding along it, like a motor race spectator.
Long story short, Awaken is the Koyaanisqatsi of our time, and director Tom Lowe is definitely the next Godfrey Reggio.
AWAKEN debuts on Apple TV, Amazon and all other major VOD platforms on April 9th.
Review by Gordon Wallace