Ron Fricke's film, shot in sumptuous 70mm without commentary, is a kaleidoscopic vision of planet Earth from top to bottom. It's a feast for the eye, and a fry-up for the mind.
The emphasis, at least in the opening segments, is the magic and mystery of the East, like watching a really long advert for Cathay Pacific. But the shifting, vibrant imagery then starts to cohere, to form patterns and echoes and reflections.
Fricke's astonishing feel for scale – be it human, architectural or industrial – exerts an hypnotic effect. Japanese production lines, Chinese military rallies and the vertiginous towers of Dubai are set against ancient rock formations, volcanoes and waterfalls.
Time-lapse photography turns the process of, say, industrial meat preparation into a fugue of eerie relentlessness: Fritz Lang would have loved it. The music, composed by Michael Stearns, Lisa Gerrard and Marcello De Francisci, enhances the immersive mood.
The film's late switch to the West, with its speeded-up images of obese Americans chowing down fast food, makes political points that might be considered a bit trite – especially in the current climate of documentaries bemoaning our descent to hell in a handcart.
But mostly it's mesmerising, and inclines you to wonder at the efforts Fricke put just into his research. How did he come by, for instance, the extraordinary massed dance of inmates in a Filipino prison yard – Busby Berkeley in orange scrubs?
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