PyroManiac breaks a rule of thumb
It's never been my vision to make this blog a commentary on popular culture. I'm concerned primarily with biblical, theological, and church issues. Even on Mondays, when my own blogplan gives me lots of latitude to write about almost anything, you're not likely to find me commenting much on movies, television series, popular music, celebrities, professional sports (the Cubs don't really qualify here, do they?), or any of the other standard icons of popular culture.
Let me be clear: I don't have any problem with blogs that analyze or critique pop culture from a Christian perspective; I read and enjoy a few blogs that do it very well. But I'm neither a movie critic nor any kind of expert on the pop fashions of the current generation.
I wanted to start with that point today for two reasons:
- Some readers may imagine that I'm opinionated about everythingas if I aspired to be an all-purpose critic. Not so. My public dogmatism is pretty much limited to subjects I have studied and love. If you want an argument about what is the best popular song of the past 40 years, I have absolutely no opinion whatsoever. I don't do top-ten movie lists or debates about which is the greatest episode of some syndicated TV series. I'm remarkably un-opinionated about such things. I couldn't even name five sitcoms that I ever watched faithfully. It's one of the ways I manage to stay focused on my work.
- However, today I'm going to break my own rule of thumb and recommend a movie.
This may surprise you even more: It's not just a movie; it's a French film. It's a pretty artsy French motion picture that was nominated for an Academy Award® a few years ago. What's more, it's a movie I wouldn't recommend for youngsters.
Shocked? Don't be. The film is "Le Peuple Migrateur," Jacques Perrin's 2001 documentary about migratory birds. It's also known by two English titles: "Winged Migration" and "Travelling Birds." Unless I missed something in the translation from French, there's absolutely nothing suggestive or morally inappropriate anywhere in the film. You can watch the whole thing without having your sanctification disturbed in the least. It's rated "G."
There's a hunting scene that might be disturbing to some children, and another sad and very graphic incident where an injured bird learns the meaning of the expression "food chain." But aside from those two scenes, I can't imagine anyone finding anything shocking or offensive in the film.
In fact, the film graphically portrays the exquisite beauty and intricate wisdom of creation. It's a wonderful example of the truth of Romans 1:18-19. It ought to be clear to any rational person that the instincts and abilities that enable these birds to migrate with such accuracy in every conceivable climate did not "evolve" by accident.
I saw this film last week on that bus trip I took. We had one of those tour buses equipped with video screens and a DVD player, and my friend Dave Cotnoir, a French Canadian, had a copy of this DVD with him. Apparently, "Le Peuple Migrateur" received a lot of positive attention from film critics and foreign film buffs a couple of years ago. It was a limited theatrical release in America. Somehow I totally missed it. Too bad. This one would have definitely been worth seeing on the large screen.
The film is visually stunning from the very first frame. The cinematography is more breathtaking than anything I have ever seen (and that includes the IMAX scenes filmed on Everest). The best parts feature close-ups of birds in flight from angles you could scarcely imagine possible. At first I thought this was just a remarkable example of computer-generated special effects. Then I thought the filmmakers must have somehow filmed birds in a wind tunnel and used blue-screen effects to superimpose them on scenery. But soon I realized they must have somehow literally filmed from within a flock of flying birds. I briefly considered the possibility that they might have developed a digital camera small enough to strap to a bird. But the camera motion was too perfect for that.
Fortunately, there's a special featurette with the DVD that shows you how they did it. In some ways it's even better than the actual film. The "making of" documentary reveals how filmmakers raised hatchling flocks of several kinds of birds (snow geese, cranes, and others), "imprinted" them with the idea that the filmmakers were their parents, taught them to fly alongside ultralight aircraft, and then filmed them in flight at spectacularly close range. The film is a remarkable achievement.
It's not a perfect film. There's almost no narration, so you won't learn many objective facts about avian migration. Most of the information given is conveyed in minimalist subtitles with next-to-nothing factoids like "The arctic tern migrates 12,500 miles from the Arctic to the Antarctic"; and "The Greater Sage Grouse lives in Idaho." That's disappointing, because I found myself constantly wanting to know more about the birds I was seeing.
There's also no plot to speak of, and some of the flight scenes in the middle are so long that if I weren't part of a captive audience on a bus, it might have lost me about halfway through. But at the very point where I began to be aware of a sense of boredom, something happened to capture my attention again. At the end, I was enjoying it so much that I was sorry to see the credits roll.
The soundtrack is almost as beautiful as the film itself.
The film took more than three years' to make, with a crew of 450 people, in numerous locations spanning all the continents. It literally offers a birds-eye view of the whole earth. It was all shot on 35mm film. Each cannister of film lasts only four minutes, and a lot of the scenes required hours of filming while waiting for something to happen. This was surely an expensive film to make, but well worth the effort and expense.
The filmmakers had no agenda to demonstrate the glory of God. As far as I know, they are as atheistic as any French scientist. But in an amazing way, they have accidentally documented the grandeur and power of an all-wise Creatornot to mention His love of beauty, diversity, and order.
And while we're on the subject of birds...
Here's why penguins are my favorite feathered creatures:
HT: Red State and Reformed at "Random Responses"