Visitors (Blu-ray Review)

VisitorsVISITORS is the fourth collaboration of director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass together with filmmaker Jon Kane, advancing the film form pioneered by The Qatsi Trilogy (Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Naqoyqatsi): the non-spoken narrative experience where each viewer s response is radically different yet undeniably visceral. As Reggio explains, VISITORS is aimed at the solar plexus, at the appetite within us all, the atmosphere of our soul. I see the film as a meditation, as a transcendental event. Comprised of only seventy-four shots, a series of human, animal and landscape portraits, VISITORS takes movie watchers on an emotional journey to the moon and back. As a wondrous work of artistic achievement…art with a capital A (Austin Chronicle), VISITORS produces massive effects and moves into a class of film all its own.   





Visitors can be considered the strangest film I ever saw this year, because it’s not really a traditional film or documentary. It’s comprised of 74 shots of people, places, and things to the beautiful music of Philip Glass. These 74 shots have an average running time of just over two minutes. You will see panoramic vistas, weird objects, people’s faces, a gorilla, etc. It’s a bit unsettling to lock eyes with some of the people in this film, because they don’t turn away. You can call it a staring contest and may the set person win! The people in the television are staring at you and piercing your soul but if you harness your “powers” correctly you too can stare right back at them and pierce their soul, too.

Yeah, that sounded a bit oblique didn’t it. I am somewhat familiar with writer-director Godfrey Reggio’s work since I own his Qatsi Trilogy on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection. No, I have not watched the set yet. Visitors seems to take from that same sort of playbook in that Reggio describes Visitors as “two and a half humans,” and I am paraphrasing there. The first part of the film is a gorilla, which means the beginning of mankind, then we evolve into humans who inhabit the Earth, then we merge with technology becoming cyborgs. Yeah, that’s a big leap but if you hold on tight and let the film take you on the journey you will see what Reggio meant.

Reggio works very slowly – his first film in the Qatsi Trilogy released 30 years ago and the final part in that trilogy was released more than 20 years ago. Back then; Reggio used film and the technology of the times. Now he is armed with associates and technology of the 21st century to bring these startling images to life. Visitors was shot in three states and in various sound stages across the country. The film was shot in 4K and mastered as such. Philip Glass was present during filming, so that he could absorb what was going before composing the score. The final music was recorded in Austria.

Personally, I was blown away by the project. It defies the norm of what film is. It’s structured, as a film of stills – like Le Jetee but it’s an actual moving picture. There is no sound or dialogue just gorgeous music that accompanies the sometime haunting imagery. It’s most definitely an experimental film I don’t think it’s a necessarily accessible film at that. That’s fine, but if you do get a chance to sample the film then give it a chance and see if you can take something from it. I think on a visual and auditory level Visitors is one of the best Blu-rays of 2014 and there’s a special spot reserved for it on my upcoming Top-10 Blu-ray list at the end of the year. Give it a shot and as Kuato from Total Recall would say: Free your mind…





Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: Visitors was shot and mastered in a 4K workflow. Contrast and sharpness levels are positively exquisite and I did not detect any instances of tinkering or postproduction tweaking of the final image.

Depth: Get ready to be sucked into the crazy beautiful word of Visitors! This ain’t a 3-D shot feature or post conversion or what have you. What you do get is one of best black and white films to grace the high-def format this year. You can swim in the film – it’s so clear!

Black Levels: Black levels are natural and never crush. There times you just want to dive right into the darkness of some of the images.

Color Reproduction: Presented in glorious black and white.

Flesh Tones: It’s a black and white flick therefore one cannot judge flesh tones properly. Now from what I did see I noticed everyone looked healthy and in some cases downright creepy. Characters depicted did not look like artificial or like if they had just stepped out of a silent movie set. There was none of that.

Noise/Artifacts: This is a rhetorical question, right?



Audio Format(s): DTS-HD MA 5.1

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics: The film contains no dialogue. It’s simply a film about running images to the sweeping musical score of Philip Glass. It’s reference material.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE kicks in only when appropriate and only when the appropriate (low) instruments are played.

Surround Sound Presentation: You get a warm sense of envelopment when the strings cascade all around you. In fact, you can turn the film off and just listen to this fabulous 5.1 lossless score in all its glory if you were so inclined.

Dialogue Reproduction: N/A



The extras on this Blu-ray are slightly above average but a commentary or a documentary could have been included but I’ll take what I can get. What we do get is a nice DTS-HD MA 2.0 score. That really threw me off guard.

  • The Making of Visitors (HD, 6:45) – This featurette chronicles the making of the film and it is very enlightening. You’d be surprised at how many things in the final film aren’t actually there.
  • Behind the Scenes (HD, 8:25) – This behind-the-scenes featurette takes bits and pieces from the making-of featurette and expands a little bit on the creation of Visitors. 
  • Trailers (HD, 6:37) – There are multiple trailers for Visitors. They segue into one another seamlessly.
  • Interviews with Godfrey Reggio (HD, 10:21), Philip Glass (HD, 9:09), Jon Kane (HD, 7:56), Steven Soderbergh (HD, 8:24) – These interviews are presented in their entirety and you make recognized bits and pieces from the previous featurettes. These interviews are presented in their original form.




Visitors is one of the most visually creative non-narrative narrative films that I’ve seen this year. The visuals and musical accompaniment are breathtaking and really tell a story of worlds merging into one, which may not be a good thing in the context provided. The technical specifications are outstanding and of reference caliber. The extras are decent and even those specs are amazing in their own right. If you’re a fan of Godfrey Reggio and his Qatsi Trilogy then you know exactly what has to be done. Go forth and seek out Visitors.


Order Visitors on Blu-ray!

Visitors -


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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