Visitors Blu-ray Review
I think of films, generally, as existing to entertain. Sometimes, though, it is helpful to remember film-as-art and nobody does this better than filmmaker Godfrey Reggio. The director of the Qatsi Trilogy (KOYAANISQATSI, POWAQQATSI, and NAQOYQATSI), Reggio is a master of visual art and his work is on full display in VISITORS, his newest work. But how does VISITORS work as a film? Is this the kind of movie you should purchase? It’s a more complicated question than I initially thought and some explanation is necessary before you can really make that decision.
VISITORS opens with an incredibly high resolution medium close-up of a gorillas face. The gorilla stares into the lens, looking at us, into us. The director explains the three primary phases of VISITORS, which contains no narrative arc of any kind, as being the gorilla, the moon, and the android (the three ‘characters?’) who are watching us through this incredible macro lens… something, again, I have been trying to figure out for 5 days since initially watching this movie and trying to write it up.
Reggio calls VISITORS a movie that nobody should fully understand because art is always in the eyes of the beholder. He intentionally remains vague on the concepts he is trying to convey; in fact ambiguity at the incredibly macro level is the only thing that is clearly conveyed by this film. This isn’t to say the film isn’t beautiful; in fact VISITORS is probably the most beautiful movie I’ve ever played on my HDTV. Sadly, it’s also one of the worst for the same reason.
I’ve talked from time to time about the interaction between technology and narrative; in the best films (and indeed the best art) the story and medium play together seamlessly and provide an experience at the very intersection of these two disparate concepts… each strengthening the other. A film like VISITORS dares you to think it unworthy and seemingly harbors the conceit that we all want to feel something so deeply the only way to do so is to watch something nobody could possibly fathom.
In some ways, VISITORS is the type of movie that makes me hate filmmakers. It drips of pretention like the worst art, daring you to dislike it and not be ‘cool enough’ to understand what is going on. It reminds me of the way I felt when filmmaker Steven Soderbergh (who, coincidentally, helped fund and produce this epic pile) used the ‘and Introducing Julia Roberts’ credit at the end of OCEAN’S TWELVE. How cute it is (said nobody ever). I strongly recommend Reggio’s other work but I just can’t recommend this one. It is beautiful. It is art… but the worst kind.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.40:1) The video presentation of VISITORS is absolutely stunning, featuring incredible detail in beautiful black and white.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) Like the video presentation, VISITORS features a flawless audio track showcasing Philip Glass’s original work in its unbridled glory. Worth a listen (without trying to make sense of the visuals) for the soundtrack alone.
The Making of VISITORS – The Creator’s Project (06:45) VISITORS features this short ‘making of’ feature where the filmmakers discuss the subjects of this art-as-film. If you want to check out this incredibly interesting (but incredibly slow) film, you should definitely watch this first.
Behind the Scenes of VISITORS (08:25) This interesting retrospective/short documentary about VISITORS is also very interesting and provides some insight into the filmmakers’ intentions with this abstract art piece. Special attention is paid to the incredible resolutions at which the film is presented (it was shot for 4K) and the detail is evident on the Blu-ray.
Trailers (06:37) The theatrical trailers are presented in ‘play-all’ format. Three trailers for VISITORS are presented, which are in fact much more interesting than the final film.
Interview with Godfrey Reggio (10:21) An insightful interview with the director of VISITORS gives few additional insights into the film; and sadly features the same talking points (‘aimed at the solar plexis’, etc.) from the other features on the Blu-ray.
Interview with Philip Glass (09:09) Glass talks about his work with Reggio and how he came to work on VISITORS and his other films. Glass is an incredibly interesting personality and if you like his music I suggest checking this one out.
Interview with Jon Kane (07:56) Filmmaker Jon Kane discusses his work with Reggio and the difficulty of putting together VISITORS. Specific discussion of note is the discussion that the film should not be considered a story in any way (‘it is emotion’). I really don’t want to think this is too pretentious but come on man.
Interview with Steven Soderbergh (08:24) Soderbergh talks about his work with Reggio and why he was drawn to help get VISITORS made. An interesting interview though I just don’t buy it… do you really like this movie this much? It makes me sad.