the film snob

A cyberspace journal about my experiences as an NYU film school grad student, reviews of current and classic films, film and TV news, and the rants and raves of an admitted (and unapologetic) film snob.

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Location: Washington D.C.

Esse Quam Videri -- To be, rather than to appear

Monday, September 24, 2007

Planet Earth











Enough film talk for a bit.

Over the next two days, I intend to chat about two utterly captivating pieces of television. One of them you have undoubtedly heard of. The other is unquestionably unfamiliar.

Today, the more recognizable of the two…

I don’t know if the Discovery Channel advertised in movie theaters in your city, but here in New York, previews for Planet Earth ran amongst the film trailers for a good month before its debut and had us all salivating for its premiere. I, for one, couldn’t wait to sit down to the 11 hours of what was being billed as the finest nature program ever aired. But it was a phenomenally busy summer and while my DVR captured every episode, I couldn’t find the time to enjoy them until just recently.

Have you ever discovered a book or movie or some such item that has been in your possession for a particularly long length of time but has gone untouched by you for whatever reason? And have you, once you’ve checked it out and found it to be nothing short of life-altering, kicked yourself for letting something that astonishing sit idly while you wasted your time elseware?

Such were my feelings after finally viewing “Planet Earth.” Unlike most things, “Planet Earth” is worth every bit of ink spilt in its hype. It is, indeed, the most awe-inspiring filmmaking of its kind ever assembled and easily some of the best television I have ever set eyes on.

There are Great White shark attacks on fur seals slowed down to the point where the predatory fish is revealed to launch bodily from the frothing sea; there are elephants at play under water; there are snowy peaks that become wreathed by massive storm system; there are sea creatures more alien than anything in science fiction; there are exotic birds to defy description; there are ice cathedrals enveloped by auroras; there are mating flies so dense that their swarm appears as a smoke pillar thousands of feet high; there are herds of numerous varieties of beasts sweeping across the plains in numbers too numerous to count; there are parasites so invasive they burst from a host’s body like something from a horror film; there are colossal caves inhabited by eyeless, albino troglodytes and ringed by crystals the size of automobiles; there are desert sandstorms and flashfloods that appear with equal ferocity; there are blue whales too immense to comprehend; there are birds that attack reindeer, otters that harass alligators, and lions that bring down elephants; there are polar bears swimming amongst shattered ice bergs…

It’s not just that the series was shot in High Definition (which I was not fortunate enough to see it in), or that new technologies allowed filming of animals from such great distances and heights that the human presence was invisible, allowing for footage never before recorded. It’s not just that “Planet Earth” utilizes high-speed cameras to slow down action normally imperceptible to the human eye, or speeds up other sequences to such a rate that we are literally allowed to witness the passages of seasons in one, unbroken shot or view the growth of plants with such rapidity that they almost take on animalistic life. It’s not just that the show establishes the geography from footage captured by NASA in low Earth orbit, or that it is the compilation of five years, and thousands of man-hours.

It is all of those things, and more. It is a window into something primal, a circular ballet of life and death, a never-ending equilibrium of the hunters and the hunted. It is glimpse into a world in which the human is almost never shown, and if he is, it is to reveal how puny he is in comparison to the world he inhabits. It is like nothing you or I have ever seen before, and there are almost not the words to describe how heart-wrenchingly beautiful and ravishingly wondrous it is.

To get some idea of what I mean, click here for a video set to the fabulous music of the Icelandic band, Sigur Ros.

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