March of the Penguins
Director Luc Jacquet has made a beautiful film out of the hardships of wildlife. On it
he took a year to follow hundreds of penguins as they go through their mating rituals.
It is quite
amazing that a film crew could get so up close and personal with the animals
over such an extended time, however the film crew spent months documenting
the minutiae of the process and the incredible lengths that they go to just
to give birth.
it. There's no cars, no planes, no modern life or technology
whatsoever. It is merely the triumph of nature over incredible
The amount of the filmmaker's input in shaping the situations is a little
hazy -- for the most part it plays like a straight nature documentary,
however the credits say that it is "based upon a screenplay by Luc Jacquet
and Michel Fessler."
Watching all the sufferings that the male and female penguins endure in order
to have a baby, it is rather amazing that they continue to survive as a
species. First hundreds must trudge for about 70 miles over the frozen
tundra to a safe spot where the ice is thick enough to stay safe in the
coming months. They go through a month-long courtship ritual.
When the eggs are hatched about a month later, they must be carefully
transferred from the mothers to the fathers, who must shield them from the
bitter cold and whipping storms until they hatch. Then the mothers must walk even farther back to
get food. Eventually, when the chicks are ready to hatch, the mothers
must trudge back yet again to feed the babies. They have to avoid
predators like seals and birds, extreme weather and months of starvation.
Then the fathers, who haven't eaten in over four months, have to take the
long trek. Dozens of the parents and chicks do not survive the
this is explained by the soothing, familiar voice of Morgan Freeman.
(The narration was written by Jordan Roberts, scribe of The Road to
Perdition and Around the Bend.) Apparently this is a change
from the original French version of the film, where three narrators
apparently spoke in the voice of the penguins. This simplification to
one generic (non-penguin) narrator was probably a wise move, talking
penguins would probably change the film into a more cartoonish experience. The
voice-over imparts interesting information and frankly often alerts us to the
significance of much of what we are seeing. It's not always really exciting
viewing, but for the most part it is fascinating, with a certain amount of
danger and intrigue built up just by the dangers of the wild.
tolerance for this all will depend on your love of wildlife. The
Emperor Penguins are stately and beautiful and their chicks are adorable,
but some people could say that there is only so much waddling around on ice
that you can watch.
people would be missing the point, though. A wise
man once said that film enables you to see events that you would never be
able to see otherwise. I'm willing to bet that very few people in the
world have ever experienced the circumstances brought to light in March of the Penguins.
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Posted: June 3, 2005.