Saturday, May 02, 2009

"Earth" (Documentary) (2007) - Movie Review

A few months back I saw a film called “Baraka”. Only visuals speaking and dictating the terms in the movement of the film, it goes through the nature’s and the urbanized town setting a vibration throughout the film, though failed to appeal and follow through till the end for me. Despite that, it is a film of uncompromising audacity and brilliance. “Earth” is a cushioned and comforted version of it, with the narration of James Earl Jones (Patrick Stewart in US version) guiding the journey of the three main characters. Polar bear, Elephant and humpback whale.

There is though a multitude of difference between “Baraka” and “Earth”. The former is not alone a look on the humungous chain of nature but also the impact of modern trends and the civilization waking up into odd places of beauty and architecture. This film is a meditation in the life very closely resembling the turmoil of humans. It goes through a year into the lives of these three animals surviving into the harshness of the forces of nature and the predators.

A polar bear family has taken their parental responsibilities. Father cruising with the full battery charge to set up a base for hunting season while mother back in the hole coming out to train the two cubs. Father is depending on the ice to stay on so that the journey into it is worthwhile for the yearly starvation he is going to make. In the vast white lands of the Arctic, the stillness of the environment is invigorating and threatening. It is a world inside our world separated in air, water and land degrading slowly even for the current residence which are diminishing.

While the nature’s beauty is more than enough to provide the nutrients for the photography, it is the angle and the peculiar shots the team of Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linkfield captures. A top angle floating through in the speed expanding to show the enormity of the planet and the animals it allows to navigate. A flock of birds migrate and they can cover a huge city flying in unison. A highly fast camera grasping the tiny shreds of body hair when a cheetah runs to slaying down Thomson’s gazelle. Then there is a scare to turn into comic moments when the mandarin ducklings jump from the nest in their attempt for their first flight. There is a wide focus shorts from the top showing the countless herds of caribou migrating towards the search of water.

In these animals is the quest for one thing, which is to survive at any cost. The parental instinct shocks us. The emotion of these looked down beings brings questions on this whole existence as an accident. Is it a chemical reaction, these protective feelings towards their offspring? Is that reaction a string of comfortable accidents to aid the pursuit of this living? It is not a film about the concept of existentialism but the similarity in the lives of the fellow beings. Humans have developed the capability of creating more hurdles than necessary already posed by the land we stand. Here there are predators closing the circle of the ecosystem. They look villainous and hunt without mercy on the offsprings as they are the easy targets. Strangely while the chemical aid of the parental instincts help in love and care, that does not come forth with other animals. Survival of the fittest as they say is undeniably true when seeing this picture.

There is another brilliant braveness when a flock of cranes carry their mission to jump the great Himalayas to settle for a tropical survivable climate in India. The winds change as they wish and at an altitude which is impossible to imagine, they do the unthinkable and succeed with literal flying colours. It is a magnificent moment in the triumph of determination and skill.

Enjoying “Earth”, I wish there was version specifically made for adults. As Disney produces and is aimed to invite kids and parents, this takes a much softer look on the brutality of our planet. When I say about a need for a mature version, I say about the look on the down and up in a more sequenced and cascaded views of the life against nature. In this they do show the lions, cheetah and wolves getting their blood but that is their survival. The look on that wherein they are not shadowed by a villainous perspective would have been a much more interesting and effective film. Apart from that “Earth” is a thoroughly inviting film. It has a perfect narration not cheesy and not cold with a need to hear basis orchestration by George Fenton and Berliner Philharmonoker. Watch “Earth”.

(Remember to sit through the credits to get a peek on how they got those aerial and tough shots of the animals up close and real)


vani said...

The polar bear cubs were cute. :-)

I find the picture clarity of the DVD's version to be better than the theater copy.

Have you watched March of the Penguins?

Ashok said...

Ohh. I heard that the UK version is a little different from US version. No, I have not watched "March of the Penguins". Will put it in my queue.