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Feature Friday: “Anima Mundi” (1992)

Anima Mundi is Latin for “the shortest Godfrey Reggio / Philip Glass collaboration”—the third of their four “musical nature documentaries.” (The others are the Hopi-titled Koyaanisqatsi, 1982, Powaqqatsi, 1989, and Naqoyqatsi, 2002—although the less said about that last one, the better.) Reggio and Glass also sometimes get assigned Baraka (1992) but, beyond clearly inspiring it, they had nothing to do with it. (They were busy making Anima Mundi!)

Anima Mundi also means “the soul of the world,” although I think Reggio and Glass thought it means “animal world,” because that’s what the movie’s mostly about: animals. (That above image is the opening shot, a kind of counterpoint to the footage of people staring into the camera in Powaqqatsi.)

Anima Mundi (1992)

I’m being snarky, but Reggio’s movies kinda invite that. When I encountered them in college, they were popular—they were enjoyable and perhaps even highbrow (they had Hopi titles!)— but watching them was always accompanied by the frisson that they might be, you know, kind of pretentious and dumb (they had Hopi titles!). I do recall defending them as being trickier than they looked, and I recently showed excerpts of Koy and Pow to a friend who’d expressed an interest in associative editing. But beyond that, these days, I honestly don’t know where I stand on them, other than that they’re fun to watch and argue about (aka, perfect for college viewing). They’re also extremely beautiful and astonishing for what they show, and presumably quite valuable for that if for no other reason.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about Philip Glass as of late, as well as thinking about revisiting these movies. We’ll start with Anima Mundi.


  • A. D. Jameson is the author of five books, most recently I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING: STAR WARS AND THE TRIUMPH OF GEEK CULTURE and CINEMAPS: AN ATLAS OF 35 GREAT MOVIES (with artist Andrew DeGraff). Last May, he received his Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the Program for Writers at UIC.

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