For my final Tuesday Graphic Narrative Project, the Prof. assigned an assignment called “Visual Journalism”, which prompted me to create a visual narrative based on the words of an interview of an individual that I know somewhat well. I immediately thought of interviewing my friend Simon Linsteadt, who is a musician and loves obscure avant-garde films. I asked him over email a series of film-related questions. Following the interview, I selected some key points of what he said of the masterpiece “Koyaanisqatsi”, and interpreted them in a very abstract, expressionist sense without the use of dialogue, in order to mirror the lack of dialogue present in the film, and its focus on abstract, visual storytelling. I was originally planning on making the project an accordion book, but I did not have the time, so all I have are the frames I colored using Photoshop’s Paint Bucket Tool.
Below is a transcript of my interview with Simon, for context (key points are written in bold):
Name one film you most identify with:
Koyaanisqatsi by Godfrey Reggio, music by Phillip Glass
- Can you tell me why?
If you were to ask me my favorite film, I may have had a different answer, but in terms of identification, Koyaanisqatsi comes to mind as number one. Without any dialogue or traditional narrative images of humanity and earth are woven together in a montage style. Through cinematic and musical alchemy, a depiction of life on earth is portrayed. The ‘narrator’ could be an extraterrestrial, a higher power, or God. It is a spell-bounding film, and perhaps one of the most famous truly experimental full length films ever made.
- What scenes are most memorable to you?
There is a scene where business men walking down the sidewalks of Manhattan in slow motion, what is likely 48 frames per second on film, while a brooding composition by Phillip Glass wails away. The way they are filmed makes them look like giants. This shot is juxtaposed against very fast motion images of many people eating and having conversations at a restaurant in what seems to be Grand Central Station. The collision of scale, time, and density within the shots create an effect that had me really thinking about the human mind and how self-absorbed it tends to be. This came to mind through seeing the exact opposite, being the ambivalence of the camera, showing the vast quantity of humans lost in their own worlds, unable to see the immensity of the earth and the strangeness of it all.
- Why and how?
Refer to above
- Did you identify with any of the characters? Did any one of them strike you as personally relatable?
This film has no actors, it is real life film of people in their day to day lives, and image of vast places in nature.
- How does the film and its message, if it has any, relate to your personal philosophy? What are your deepest most cherished core beliefs? How did you react on an emotional level?
My deepest belief is that kindness and compassion is the most spiritually evolved way of living. I think these seemingly simple things are with us at birth, buried in us, and relearned only through deep human suffering, which is the inferno that the ego creates in order to obliterate itself. Any beliefs based in divisive thinking are inherently egotistical. This film in some ways corroborates my beliefs by removing me from my story and my identity, and demonstrating the grand, unfathomable nature of the earth and the universe.
- Did you watch the film alone or with someone else? If with someone else, what does that person mean to you in your life?
I watched this once with my dad when I was ten, and a second time when I was twenty five. My dad has shown me many films and pieces of music that have ended up being some of my favorites.
- Are there any other films similar to the one you’ve mentioned that have also resonated with you? Why do you like the particular types of films that you do?
I think this film is an anomaly, a one of a kind. I am interested in other experimental film works too, because they occasionally have the kind of power to break an individual out of their conditioned ways of relating to themselves and others. The avant garde and the surreal arts are potent, but not always. I also love narrative film. So far I have really enjoyed narrative films by Steven Spielberg, Sergio Leone, Luis Buñuel, John Carpenter, and Wim Wenders. The list goes on but these are some of my recent inspirations.