Thursday, October 18, 2012

Microcosmos Movie Review

One of the most remarkable documentaries is not a traditional documentary the way most people think of the genre as having various talking heads and a narrator revealing facts about a particular topic. Microcosmos takes as its subject matter the world of insects and other tiny creatures that live under our feet and in the trees and flowers, but the only factual information presented is a brief voiceover early in the film. Otherwise directors Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou employ state of the art miniature cameras to enter a world heretofore unseen by most people.

Nuridsany and Pérennou present all the information visually and aurally. In addition to a lack of narration, there is also no text anywhere to inform even so much as the kind of creatures we’re observing. Ultimately a voiceover narration might have had the effect of making the film feel stilted and dry. They let the visuals speak for themselves. And do they ever! This is outstanding work, edited together in a fun and engaging manner, also employing the use of miniature microphones to capture the sounds of these bugs at work. Then selected sound effects are amplified on the soundtrack for added texture. Everything is then set to an original musical score by Bruno Coulais.

Obviously the purpose is not to replicate what National Geographic has done for many years. Producer Jacques Perrin intends to provide an experience of a tiny world we are constantly surrounded by but often forget about until these often pesky animals invade our homes. We see bees busily collecting pollen. There are ladybugs struggling to take flight; a butterfly emerging from its pupa stage; beetles battling it out; and endless wonders such as I’d never seen before.

Each segment is like a short story with the bugs as protagonists as they are engaged in their daily business. Is it the directors’ goal to anthropomorphize these bugs? I would say so unequivocally. How else do we explain the presence of footage of a dung beetle struggling through a Sysiphian challenge of moving a ball of dung along rough terrain, getting stuck along the way and sometimes having it roll back down to where he started from?

As a piece of performance art the film is splendid. I have never been held so rapt by the sights of insects and other bugs. Children should be utterly fascinated by this film, especially those kids with a predilection for observing ant colonies in the back yard. Adults looking for encyclopedic information may be disappointed unless they allow themselves to be taken in by a film that was 15 years ago, and still remains today, a timeless adventure.

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