Thirty years ago, Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi was an art-house hit and a unique cinematic experience: the film, with no plot and no dialogue, was a series of vivid images, sometimes sped up or slowed down, accompanied by a hypnotic Philip Glass score. Reggio’s latest, Visitors, follows a similar path but is distinctly its own invention. Filmed in black and white, it contains only 74 shots, most lasting a minute or more. We see unadorned faces staring at the camera; afternoon shadows moving across a large, institutional-looking building; forlorn images of an abandoned amusement park; the misty, magical quiet of a swamp.
The idea, according to the film’s press notes, is to reveal “humanity’s trancelike relationship with technology.” I’m not sure this theme will be clear to many watchers (it wasn’t to me), but the images of Visitors are transfixing nonetheless. Those faces, with the camera slowly pulling in, each seem to tell a story: a woman’s lips twitching ever-so-slightly, as if she might cry; the elegant planes of a man’s cheekbones; a freckled child whose gaze seems achingly knowing; another child shaking her head, eyebrows lowering ominously like storm clouds. In between are outdoor shots, with no humans present: graveyard monuments; mountains of garbage; the terrible sadness of that quiet, tawdry amusement park; an abandoned warehouse; a flock of seagulls in soaring slow motion, each filling its own piece of sky.
Visitors, with its Glass music pulsating from the screen, requires its audience to give up much of what we usually go to the movies for — stories, characters, coherence — but it gives back its own rewards.
Writer-director: Godfrey Reggio.
Producers: Mara Campione, Phoebe Greenberg, Jon Kane.
A Cinedigm release. Running time: 87 minutes. No offensive material. In Miami-Dade only: O Cinema Wynwood.