Monday, February 6, 2017

Captivated by nature

Seasons, which screened late last month at the Detroit Film Theatre (DFT), is an extraordinary film. The cinematography is fantastic, the kind of film that makes you ask, “how did they get those shots?” The film was made by a couple of France’s most esteemed filmmakers, Jacques Perrin, whose bio includes acting in films by Vittorio De Seta and Costa-Gavras, and Jacques Cluzaud, who has directed special format productions, also related to nature. Seasons tells the story of the evolution of Europe’s forests, from their “golden age” before humans descended on the scene, to their eventual thinning out and marginalization by agriculture and urban development. Most of the scenes, which are shot in a very still and studied way, nevertheless captivate the viewer as they depict myriad animal species – from waterfowl to reptiles to wild boars and moose - in their natural pristine habitat, eking out an existence or in fact preying or being preyed upon. There are scenes of cougars chasing horses, with the filmmakers tracking them right alongside at ferocious speed.  There is a shot from within a wolf den, and of chicks falling dozens of meters from the top of trees to the ground before they can fly, and of grizzly bears battling it out on hind legs with one another. The film looks at the forest in its four-season splendor but not chronologically, flipping back and forth among different times of the year. Gradually, humans appear, first as cave people, then as medieval knights, rapidly cutting down trees and turning lands into vast agricultural panoramas. Some of the shots, particularly of birds flying high above, must have been shot by drones or mini-cameras embedded on the birds. Still, the shots are remarkable and seemingly done in an incomprehensible way. Yes, this film is a paean to nature and there’s a subtle political message about preserving forests as much as possible rather than laying waste and creating urban sprawl. But the nice thing is the filmmakers don’t bat you over the head with it. The film is primarily about nature (as in a National Geographic special) and for the viewer to assimilate the splendors before them. What you conclude from that and what you do with that information is up to you.

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