Entire family: No, for meditation
2015, 52 min., Color
Not rated (would be G)
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features: B-/C+
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, CD
Amazing Space: An Audio/Visual Meditation on the Cosmos is as advertised: a slideshow of images from the Hubble telescope that fade in, fade out, and rotate slightly in a modified Ken Burns style, set to New Age music by composer-performer Kristin Hoffman.
Film Chest Media Group bills it as a “companion and guide to meditation, yoga, dance, dreaming or just relaxing.” That is, this one isn’t for family movie night. It’s for Mom or Dad, locked in a room alone and trying to unwind from the day’s stresses.
Those who find inspiration in music and images will discover that the first seven minutes or so, with its time-lapse photography of everyday life, is vaguely reminiscent of Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance—the 1982 documentary by Godfrey Reggio that featured striking cinematography by Ron Fricke and music from Philip Glass. The big difference is that in Koyaanisqatsi each new set of images was intended to provoke a reaction or insight. Here, the earthbound images are just a jumping-off point for a series of images that are designed to do just the opposite: to clear your mind.
Hoffman’s compositions—featuring piano, synthesizers, drum programming, strings, percussion, sarod, marimba, chimes, and vocals—seem magical all on their own, the proof being that you can close your eyes and feel just as relaxed and transported, especially when Hoffman’s vocals take flight. The images of earth and space almost feel like a bonus, even though they served as inspiration for her eight compositions: “Root of All,” “Elixer Field,” “Starlight,” “The Galactic Beat,” “Universal Voice,” “Celestial Sight,” “Amazing Space,” and “Cosmic Consciousness.”
I do not meditate regularly, nor do I have a meditator’s mindset. Though I found the movements of Hoffman’s compositions to be nicely synchronized with the images and melodic enough to be relaxing, the minute that Amazing Space told me I was looking at the Milky Way, I found myself wondering throughout the rest of the 52-minute film what space phenomena I was witnessing.
I checked the bonus features, but none of the interviews told me in any detail what shots from the Hubble telescope I was watching. While I realize such an impulse makes me the anti-meditator, I do think that when you’re dealing with spectacular (yes, I’d use that word) images of space you’re going to have at least some people like me who, before or after trying to use the film as intended, would appreciate a few answers. I hope that future editions of this title incorporate a list of images and some information about them, or an option to watch with subtitles that identify what is being seen. Then it might actually do double duty: work to help Mom or Dad unwind, and also provide a teaching moment. Couple that with a show-and-tell piece of meteorite that you buy on the Internet (they’re plentiful) and it would be a great mini-lesson for home schoolers or families who enjoy learning together.
Amazing Space is a three-disc set that includes a Blu-ray, DVD, and CD soundtrack.