By: Roberto Rivera|Published: December 4, 2009 4:31 PM
According to Cormac Scanlon, his film Hylozoism is an "'Holistic Documentary’ which, whilst offering no answers, uses associational form to invite its viewers to think about life's big questions. Where did we come from? How are we connected to each other and our planet? Where are we headed as species? What is our purpose as an individual?"
He's trying way too hard. Non-verbal films, in the Spirit of Baraka, are the ultimate in "show, don't tell." You don't explain what you are doing, at least not as much as Scanlan does -- you take the audience on a journey and let them figure it out for themselves.
Still, it's a very good effort and, for what it's worth, if I'm a connoisseur of any genre of films, it's non-verbal ones. They are my favorite "genre." Hylozoism, which takes its name from the idea that "that all or some material things possess life," draws you into its world and, with the aid of its score (a good score is a must for these kinds of films), lets the right brain have its turn at the wheel.
My top five non-verbal films:
Baraka. Actually, it's my favorite film of all time. I've watched it at least 100 times. As director Ron Fricke put it, if Baraka, which comes a word whose cognates mean "blessing" in many different languages, has a "theme," it's this: Life has invited to us a celebration but has not given us any say regarding the guest list. Visually, it is the most beautiful film you will ever see. The score, featuring the likes of Dead Can Dance, is almost as good. Some of the images will amaze you, others will break your heart and haunt you forever.
Koyaanisqatsi. A Hopi neologism translated as "life out of balance." The first great non-verbal film. It's director of photography was Ron Fricke and its score was written by Philip Glass. It seldom gets any better than this. Please, Fox, give us the Blu-Ray!
Powaqqatsi. The "sequel" to Koyaanisqatsi. Only this time, the images come from what used to be called the "developing world" and before that the "third world." It's title means something like "a way of life that consumes another life." More music by Glass. Yeah! On Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and alternate Sundays, I prefer it to Koyaanisqatsi.
Highway World. Directed by Martin Hans Schmitt. It's about, well, highways. Really. The score by Al Gromer Khan is especially effective in setting an otherworldly, slightly mystical tone in a movie about asphalt.
Naqoyqatsi. The least satisfying of the "qatsi" trilogy but it makes the list because of Glass's score featuring Yo-Yo Ma.