Reggio and his crew assembled multiple layers of technology for their own ends--why do they fault other men for doing the exact same thing? Why is their use of it good, but others' use of it bad? Aren't Reggio, Fricke and Glass wallowing in technology as much--if not more so--than their audience, who are leading exactly the kind of lifestyle attacked in Koyaanisqatsi.
The Ambiguity of Images
Fortunately, as Ebert noted, the very ambiguity of the "Qatsi" films allows for the viewer to take away a very different message than the director intended, very much like 2001: A Space Oddysey, which been paired with Koyaanisqatsi as a double feature at least once--and Koyaanisqatsi is inconceivable without Kubrick's pioneering efforts mating stunning photography with classical music. As Kubrick noted shortly after 2001 was released:
No, I didn't have to try for ambiguity; it was inevitable. And I think in a film like 2001, where each viewer brings his own emotions and perceptions to bear on the subject matter, a certain degree of ambiguity is valuable, because it allows the audience to "fill in" the visual experience themselves. In any case, once you're dealing on a nonverbal level, ambiguity is unavoidable. But it's the ambiguity of all art, of a fine piece of music or a painting — you don't need written instructions by the composer or painter accompanying such works to "explain" them. "Explaining" them contributes nothing but a superficial "cultural" value which has no value except for critics and teachers who have to earn a living. Reactions to art are always different because they are always deeply personal.
Which is why, even though I disagree with most, if not all of Koyaanisqatsi's conclusions, I can still be dazzled by the film. Like 2001, its images and music are stunning. It's use of a non-linear plot radical. If more movies used this approach, rather than the hidebound three-act structure that dates back to the dawn of talkies, I'd be one happy camper.
Kubrick would probably agree:
Here again, you've got the resemblance to music; an Alabama truck driver, whose views in every other respect would be extremely narrow, is able to listen to a Beatles record on the same level of appreciation and perception as a young Cambridge intellectual, because their emotions and subconscious are far more similar than their intellects. The common bond is their subconscious emotional reaction; and I think that a film which can communicate on this level can have a more profound spectrum of impact than any form of traditional verbal communication.