March of the Penguins
Documentary / Family
March of the Penguins
Documentary / Family
At the end of each Antarctic summer, the emperor penguins of the South Pole journey to their traditional breeding grounds in a fascinating mating ritual that is captured in this documentary by intrepid filmmaker Luc Jacquet. The journey across frozen tundra proves to be the simplest part of the ritual, as after the egg is hatched, the female must delicately transfer it to the male and make her way back to the distant sea to nourish herself and bring back food to her newborn chick.
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August 10, 2018 at 04:52 AM
I recently saw this film at the Waterfront Film Festival in Michigan and I can say it's one of the best documentaries I've ever seen.
Narrated by Morgan Freeman, it follows the annual journey that penguins and their mates endure to bring a newborn penguin into the world. This film has some of the most amazing footage I've ever see in a documentary ... including underwater footage beneath the ice of penguins feeding and being fed on. Footage so amazing that I heard one viewer saying how it must have been CGI as he left the venue.
If you have any interest in nature, penguins, or just want to see a touching story of the amazing journey that penguins make simply to perpetuate their breed, definitely check this film out in theatres. It's a masterpiece.
The Emperor's mating waltz in Antarctica
"The March of the Penguins" has to be one of the most beautiful documentaries in recent memory. Luc Jacquet, its director, takes us on trip to Antarctica where we are introduced to the majestic Emperor penguins. Mr. Jacquet and his cinematographers, Laurent Chalet and Jerome Maison, have done the impossible task to capture these penguins in their own habitat under conditions that seem almost humanly impossible to live, let alone take this team to register it for us, the viewers in all its splendor and bleakness.
The Emperor penguins have to be the most elegant birds on this planet. They have such a noble way of standing and shuffling in almost perfect lines from the sea to the area where they will mate, hatch their eggs, and then have the females leave for the sea to feed themselves and bring back food for the new chicks. After that is accomplished, it's the males turn to do their march back to the sea to feed and fortify themselves, returning to the hatching and mating area. What makes these penguins so unique is the sense of family they project at all times.
Mr. Jacquet makes it clear for us to understand the behavior of the Emperors in their hostile environment. The English version has the clear narration by Morgan Freeman who expands on the way these birds live and how they are able to survive under extreme conditions. From what I have read about the documentary, the English version, which we are seeing in this country, has a musical score by Alex Wurman, that enhances the movie in unexpected ways.
Antarctica, that icy white vastness at the end of the world, has never looked more majestic than in this documentary. Thanks to Luc Jacquet we are enlightened by all what we learn about the Emperors as they endure and survive under the worst possible circumstances and remain the graceful figures they are. Watching "The March of the Penguins" feels, at times, like being at the ballet watching a magical dance performed by these flightless birds that manage to look so dignified all the time while doing for us their amazing dance of survival.
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Luc Jacquet has done the impossible.
Toss that anthropomorphic expectation and embrace your inner animal because documentarian Luc Jacquet has done the impossible: March of the Penguins respects, even adores, these indomitable cuties, not because, as Morgan Freeman says in his voice-over narration, they may be just like us, but rather because they are not like us. Although we may want to see ourselves in them, we end up seeing in this incomparably intimate journey through the entire breeding cycle in Antarctica is a unique organism totally devoted to the survival of its family, brooking no selfish activity and no vacation from the harsh climate and relentless demands of nature.
This film's strength is a lack of sentimentality that allows us to focus on the strategies of survival: Thousands of penguins closely huddle with their backs to the sometimes 100 mile an hour winds; fathers and mothers equally share responsibilities such as trudging 70 miles each way to store up food for the babies; fathers protect eggs while mothers make that journey; mates separate after the season from each other and their babies forever. Their lovemaking is dignified and the essence of minimalism. These are just a few of the rituals that characterize an evolutionary process guaranteeing the survival of the species.
Jacquet occasionally courts repetition, anathema to a hyperactive audience, but if the audience gives itself over to the rhythms of penguins breeding to live, it will not be bored. Winged Migration seems strangely detached by comparison, formations mostly seen from afar. Jacquet gets up close and personal (The parents exchanging an egg to be stored under their coats is memorable) to make the audience collaborator rather than voyeur. Lamentably, the director includes no scenes of raw predator activity, just a large scavenger scooping up a baby. A documentary should allow the audience of experiencing the good and the bad.
A few years ago I hid in a trench in New Zealand to see Penguins rise out of the sea at the same time each day marching by us to their camps. I was deeply moved by their dignity and calm, punctuated with a resolve to keep their rituals intact for millennia. That unflagging constancy is devoutly to be wished in humanity.
For once, the trailer hype may be accurate: "In the harshest place on earth, love finds a way." Love of species would be more accurate. No matter, you'll love the film.