Godfrey Reggio’s Visitors has a lot to say, yet says nothing at all. Much like his past “Qatsi” trilogy, this collage-of-a-film (literally) stares into the souls of the viewers. There is no story, there are no characters, and no color, yet it’s still somewhat brilliant in its own way.
Especially the music. Some will recognize the beautiful compositions of Philip Glass from Reggio’s past work, but those unfamiliar with such avant-garde films may still recognize the heavy, dramatic tones from the movie Watchmen, which borrowed a couple songs from Koyaanisqatsi for its soundtrack. At its peak, the music draws you in and adds drama to simple images. The only downside is it’s easy to get lost in the music’s hypnosis and drown out the images altogether. Which is a pretty big downside when Reggio really wants the audience to pay attention.
As for the film itself, there are only 74 shots in its 87-minute runtime. Most of it consists of heads seemingly floating in a dark abyss, juxtaposed with desolate locations with an effective time-lapse. The juxtaposition of images is left to the audience’s interpretation. Perhaps it is about the phasing out of human life and what they will leave behind? There are even a couple shots, towards the beginning and end, of a sad-eyed gorilla—almost judgmental. Could it be a giant ad for the new Dawn of the Planet of the Apes film?
One of the biggest things going for this film is that it’s darn beautiful. Use of 4K to bring the scenes to life couldn’t have been a better choice. Even just watching the DVD, it’s easy to see all the details in the faces as they slowly zoom in, and the hands as they dance around like ballerinas. Just imagine how striking the images would look on an 80 inch UHD screen.
The DVD comes with a few special features including interviews with director Godfrey Reggio, composer Philip Glass, and producers, Jon Kane and Steven Soderbergh. There’s also “The Making of Visitors-The Creators Project” and “Behind The Scenes Of Visitors,” which works as both supplemental features for fans, and a sort-of preparation for viewers not sure of exactly what they’re getting into.
In the special features, Reggio explains that his purpose with this film is to achieve a “visceral form of cinema” that is “aimed at your solar plexus.” Steven Soderbergh claims that “if monks can sit at a bench and make a movie, this is what it would look like.” Really, there’s not much difference between the “The Making of Visitors” and “Behind the Scenes,” but learning the process of how the film was made and why exactly they chose 4K adds dimensions to the film that the viewers might not have realized were there.
Visitors isn’t for everyone and it’s certainly not aimed at the average movie-goer. If you’re looking for adventure, horror, romance, or comedy, you won’t find it here. Or maybe you will. There’s a different kind of adventure, a hidden horror, a unique intimacy between audience and screen, and maybe even a little irony if you’re perceptive enough to find it on your own.