It is my intention to watch all of the famous “time-lapse footage set to music” films. So far, I’ve watched Koyaanisqatsi (1982), but I also need to watch the next two in the Qatsi trilogy, and also Samsara (2011) and Baraka (1992). I love watching this style of film because they are generally relaxing, and tend to provide an interesting point of view on their subjects; whether these are people, landscapes, buildings or environmental phenomena.
Chronos (1985) is an interesting one in particular. Directed and photographed by Ron Fricke, who worked on the cinematography for Koyaanisqatsi, the film is only about 43 minutes long and consists of one long piece of music composed by Michael Stearn set to its beautiful images. Like Koyaanisqatsi, there is no distinct storyline. The film consists of themes of nature and civilisation, and the juncture between the two across time, as high-speed time-lapse photography creates a magical and enthralling atmosphere. Chronos takes us across time and space – from Egypt to Italy and everywhere in between, and from the raw landscapes and natural rock formations of the deserts of Arizona to man-made architectural wonders such as the Vatican in Rome and the Parthenon in Athens.
It goes without saying that the film is 100% visually stunning 100% of the time. Whether the camera’s gaze is on shadows and light playing across rock formations, or resting upon the exquisite sculpture of two hands touching, the visions on screen are truly spectacular in combination with the music and subtle camera movements. There are not a lot of humans featured in Chronos (which is one distinguishing feature between it and Koyaanisqatsi), but there is one scene where we see humans sped up and moving like hordes of ants in the bustling Grand Central Terminal of New York City – the movement of human life becoming faster and faster in combination with increasingly rapid music. The overall effect was so mindblowing that I had to watch it a couple of times to take it all in properly. One of the interesting aspects of Chronos is the visceral effect that some of the moments give to its audience. Chronos is not only beautiful; it is a master of handling tension and the limits of human perception.
I loved Chronos. To me, it’s one of the more accessible “time-lapse footage set to music” films – there has to be a better name for this sub-genre of experimental film – due in part to its shorter run time compared with some of the other similarly-themed films, but also due to its comparatively quicker switches between shots, scenes, and eras in space and time. I found myself spellbound by this film because it was truly beautiful, and contained footage of some amazing archaeological and architectural wonders that I have always wanted to visit, and some that I have already visited. I almost feel jealous of the director for the impressive amount of travelling that went into this film. But I’m mostly impressed with the way that this visual poem made me feel. It ends in a manner that truly causes you to ponder life within the context of all you see in the film, and not a lot of films have the power to do that.
Watch the trailer here.