Thursday, September 15, 2005

I didn't know a penguin could hold a camera...

I saw March of the Penguins today. Beautiful, charming, heartening, wholesome. No wonder everybody's seeing it.

At first, you are aware of the camera crew, in that you look at the frozen trackless wastes and wonder how they stood the -58 degree temperature. But you forget quickly, remembering briefly now and then when a close-up is so close up that you marvel at the improvement in technology over the Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom days. Mostly, you're just there, in amongst the penguins. You could convince me for a least a little while that they strapped cameras to some of the less-waddly penguins, the action is so intimate.

It's a perfect "G" movie: no blood, no poop, death is frozen and still, but we don't see violence. And no overt mating, so the little children in our audience didn't ask "Mommy, are those penguins fighting?" But you knew the blood and poop and death and mating were there all the same.

I have seen some complaints on other blogs that the movie was a little too anthropomorphic, but I don't think so. I think instead that we actually see the animal soul given to them by God, that makes them protect and suffer and grieve and delight in an animal way, not a human way.

The one line that jarred me was 2/3rd's of the way through: the baby penguins (which prove that every baby in the world is cutecutecute) have been transferred from their perch on the father's feet to the mother's feet, preparatory to the fathers taking their turn to walk to the sea to eat, and Morgan Freeman (magnificent job) says

Even though the mother and baby have known each other for only a few days, the bond between them is surprisingly strong.

"Known each other?" "Surprisingly strong?" This wasn't an introduction, this was a birth. They are intimately connected, permanently connected. The bond is overarching, complete, fundamental. I hate to think that political correctness about the relationship between any mother and child, animal or human, has shifted the bond to something that can be begun or ended.

See the movie. On the big screen, the color and light are magnificent.


Julie D. said...

I was one of those who didn't like what I considered to be "shoving" human characteristics down my throat. Also, the music was so very sappy that it distracted me from what was going on on the screen. although I heard that the French version was even more so on both counts.

Mostly, I would have preferred to make my own observations.

My hat was off to the camera crew though. The movie I'd like to see is "The Making of March of the Penguins." Just getting the swimming shots must have been amazing...

Therese Z said...

My taste-o-meter must have been set to low, because the music didn't bother me except in one or two over-sprightly places. It was part of the pacing (the editing is really magnificent; first time I've noticed the effect of good editing).

I do agree that the SPOKEN words did ascribe human characteristics too often - the father penguins were said to be "making ready to sever the relationship with their chicks," when although I believe that they do definitely sever their relationship, they don't decide to do it, or "make ready." But they also don't just wander off, in the film, at least manipulated by editing, but they did seem to pause, to stare at the chicks and the mothers.

But the film record show us the animal soul. The father penguin trying to cuddle the dead, icy chick under his feet, with hesitance and puzzled abstraction; another parent (mother, I think) braying sadly over the dead body of the chick, in a tone not heard elsewhere; even the adult that slipped and fell and clearly said a penguin version of "oh, hell."



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