Monday, September 23, 2013

Penny Thoughts ’13—Microcosmos (1996) ****

G, 80 min.
Directors/Writers: Claude Nuridsany, Marie Perénnou
Narrator: Kristin Scott Thomas

“Microcosmos” is not one of those nature documentaries where some British professor-sounding man whispers into the soundtrack that such and such a creature can only be seen doing such and such a thing as such and such a time, and what you’re seeing is a rarity on film. I don’t doubt for a second, however, that you would be hard pressed to find a movie with images as unique as the ones you can see here. Instead of the traditional nature documentary narration, Kristin Scott Thomas introduces the setting and summarizes the imagery at the very beginning and the very end of the film. In between, is an exploration of nature—mostly insects and arachnids—unlike any you’ve ever seen.

Did you think that two snails making love could be sexy? Well, I’m not sure its exactly sexy—it’s a little disturbing actually—but the filmmakers here make their best attempt to present it as tenderly as the most loving of Hollywood sex scenes. In fact, for a ‘G’ rated movie, there’s quite a bit of sex and violence. We also get to see ladybugs getting it on, ladybugs devouring aphids, a pheasant slaughtering a colony of ants, a serial killing spider, and various types of bees making advances on flowers. It ain’t just us humans that can’t get enough sex and violence. Nature’s full of the pairing.

Mostly, “Microcosmos” is a film of beauty, though. The close up photography with these mostly unnoticed beings and their activities is beyond remarkable. It all occurs in a normal looking field “somewhere on Earth” according to the brief narration. It’s filmed with the same fascination that draws us all to nature docs, but it’s also filmed with an artistic ambition that is often lacking in such projects. It has drama and humor and relies on the characters of the story to tell it rather than some disembodied voice of superiority. It’s fitting that the film should end with the birth of mosquito, an annoyance to all, yet a universal player in the Earthly experience.

No comments: