May 17 1, 2015 -- I got an advance copy of this new blu-ray, DVD and CD release yesterday (the release date for this set is May 26) and it wasn't what I expected. It isn't a feature movie. It isn't a documentary, either, but it is very nice to watch and listen to. As an amateur astronomer, I'm interested in the location and nature of the celestial objects in this film, but that is not what this is. It is a meditation in music and images.
The music is composed by (and often performed by) Kristin Hoffman. There is enough variety to the soundtrack so that it doesn't get boring or too sleep-inducing. The images are mainly from the Hubble Space Telescope, but it isn't just a slide show. There are pans, zoom-ins, zoom-outs, fades and digital manipulations to some images, such as causing part of an image to spin while another part remains motionless. Sometimes two different images are combined in startling ways, such as having a planet appear, all out of proportion, in the center of a galaxy. This is more art than science.
There are no additional soundtracks or subtitles to tell you what you are looking at on the screen, but there is a very definite message about light pollution in this film. It opens with a message about thousands of people in Los Angeles who saw our own Milky Way galaxy in the sky for the first time, only because of a massive power outage caused by an earthquake on January 17, 1994.
At the end of the film, there is information about the International Dark Sky Association's efforts to reduce light pollution and eliminate the waste of over $2 billion annually because of inefficient mis-directed light fixtures that shoot light up into the night sky instead of putting all the light onto streets, sidewalks and parking lots where it belongs. In the disk extras, there is a clip from the film's producer about an epiphany he had while climbing Mount Aconcagua in the Andes and seeing the full glory of the stars for the first time in a dark, unpolluted area. It is a very eloquent (probably well-written and rehearsed) description of the wonder of the Milky Way.
But this film isn't about astronomy, it is about the beauty and majesty discovered in the universe, from planets in our own solar system, to galaxies and nebulae billions of light years away. In some scenes, the stars appear to be as numerous as grains of sand on an ocean beach. In an extra on the disk (both on the blu-ray and the DVD in this three-disk set that includes a soundtrack CD) the film's editor, Elan Alexenberg, describes how he married the images and the soundtrack together.
The soundtrack, like the film, is divided into eight parts. The first, called Root of All, consists of images of people and cities at a hectic pace, speeded up with time-lapse cinematography. Then the film shifts into the cosmos and the pace of the music and images becomes more soothing. Part six, “Celestial Sight,” features a sarod (an Indian instrument similar to the sitar), played by Vijay Shankar Mishra.
The music sounds new agey, which is no surprise since composer Kristin Hoffman has this on her web page: “My goal is to spread love, light, peace and truth into the world through the vehicles of music and energetic frequency.” That sounds kinda new agey, doesn't it? The CD, DVD and Blu-ray disks all come in a standard-sized DVD case, which has an unusual over-under, offset dual CD-DVD holder on the bottom and a blu-ray disk holder on the top half, with a two-sided descriptive cover sheet.
The descriptive sheet has a song list, with song credits, and the other side has “How to Watch Amazing Space” suggestions about meditation, “open awareness,” “mindfulness” and “guided meditation.” The soundtrack is Dolby® stereo, on all the disks, including the blu-ray. It plays loud, about 10db louder than a standard DVD or blu-ray. There are no subtitles. Extras are four on-camera interviews, two featuring the music composer, one with the editor and one with the producer.
A number of studies indicate there are real mental and medical benefits to meditation, but most of these studies are disputed in terms of scientific rigor. At any rate, I found “Amazing Space” to be a pleasant and relaxing experience. The images are impressive and the music is varied. “Amazing Space” rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.