Godfrey Reggio’s Visitors, told in black and white, explores mankind’s relationship with technology, supposedly suggesting that our engagement with technology in modern society has become unhealthily and obsessively out of control.
Of course, all is up for interpretation as, much like his first feature Koyaansqasti, there is no dialogue throughout the whole piece.
Those not familiar with Reggio’s work may be tempted to assume that it is styled like a vintage silent movie, where the plot is made unmistakably clear by a helpful team of actors. Absolutely not. It’s a beast of its own.
Reggio has strung together a series of kinetic images that unnerve, intrigue and provoke questions simultaneously. He opts for visceral impact as oppose to story-telling, concentrating on using emotions, not information, to guide the documentary. The camera flows from person to person, their series of unique facial expressions telling a glum story. Most interesting is the way Reggio uses the intensity of the subjects’ eyes to absorb the viewers attention, drawing them further into the abstract world in which the Visitors lies.
A crucial aspect of this piece appears to be self-reflection. In only 74-shots Reggio invites us to evaluate our own social disconnection. Abandoned amusement parks, desolate public places and desecrated buildings are slotted in between the poignant, admonishing faces of children and adults alike. Reggio seems to imply these are the sacrifices we have we have offered up in place of a modern, technological world. This is heavily suggested by stark contrast between the image of enthusiastic spectators watching (presumably) a sporting game and the deserted fair ground.
(Side note: Anyone else find it a little ironic that without technology Reggio wouldn’t have been able to devise this creatively intellectual piece of work? Just a little something extra to ponder after you’ve watched the documentary).
The sullen faces combined with composer Philip Glass’ haunting soundtrack have an almost a macabre effect made even more chilling by the occasional, almost mocking, smile. During the piece the word ‘whoops’ is mimed causing the viewer to consider what colossal error could have been made to break the bubble of wordlessness as well as why the girl who mouths the word then goes on to grin.
A strong effort is made by Reggio to create something remarkably purposeful and thought provoking however something is lost along the way. What starts off as a fascinating concept losses oomph as the slow motion slide show eventually becomes tedious. The gorilla, however, who pops up intermittently, lies somewhere between, eerie, provocative and interesting but never dull. Stunning effects are used to depict the soulful gorilla, this serves as just one example of the highly sophisticated, yet subtle special effects used by Reggio.
Ultimately the documentary feels extremely lengthy for a piece with very little variation. By the end, the reel of quirky, haunted faces becomes exasperating, leaving you wondering whether or not shorter would have been sweeter. One can’t help but feel 30 minutes would have been sweet enough for a sugar coma.