Sunday, July 30, 2006

The White Planet

I went to the White Planet at the Embassy this morning while Ian headed off to Brooklyn to see Kirikou and the Sorceress. The White Planet documents a year in the arctic and shows the scenic, metereological, biological and zoological highlights of each season. People who have pay TV might wonder why you'd go to the cinema to see a nature documentary since there are whole channels devoted to this kind of stuff, but we don't have pay TV and I think that if you're going to see a film that features an amazing landscape you should see it on as big a screen as you can manage. I saw March of the Penguins on a tiny screen on a plane, and that clearly wasn't how it should be seen.

The White Planet is a really rewarding watch. The scenic stuff was great - particularly the northern lights and the full moon rising over the ice.The animal footage was better than anything I'd ever seen - you're in the little burrow with the lemming while the arctic fox is overhead, and under the ice with the little seal while the polar bear prowls on top. You can see the seal's nostrils flaring and hear its breathing accelerate. And you hear the polar bear grunt in disgust after it get wet but the seal gets away. There were shots of a pod of beluga whales taken from underneath so you could see all their abdominal muscles flexing, and a pod of humpbacks swimming up a fjord taken from above. There were narwhals, phosporescent jelly fish, guillemots, artic owls, reindeer, bison. I learned that mosquitos make summer a torment for reindeer and that new-born polar bears are about as big as their mother's nose. I felt for baby seals trying to feed - a difficult task when their mother is shaped like a barrel and her nipples are tiny. Baby reindeer have to learn to trot within 2 hours of being born, which is also a challenge.

The soundtrack is mostly music - there's a bit of voice-over which is in French, and sometimes the subtitles don't show up well against the snow. At the end, the narrator reminds you that the Artic is disappearing due to global warming, which makes the whole show more poignant.

Anne's rating:4/5

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