Monday, March 19, 2012

Winged Migration

As I mention in my review of Himalaya with Michael Palin a few weeks ago, we got a flat-wide-screen television which excels at showing nature programs. To celebrate, I am making this nature film week at ricklibrarian. Today we start with one of my favorites, Winged Migration by director James Perrin. This film about the world's birds, many of whom travel great distances seasonally, is filled with dramatic forests, mountains, beaches, and deserts against which the colorful birds are strikingly beautiful. With little dialogue, the film records flocks of birds traveling north to breed and south to escape the winter. In some sequences we simply hear wind, waves, and the flapping of wings. Sometimes new age music accompanies the birds in flight. It is wonderful viewing.

Like many films that we have seen on PBS's Nature or National Geographic Specials, Winged Migration is the story of a year. What distinguishes this film, which was a feature attraction in theaters, is the point of view. We are close flying alongside the birds crossing spectacular landscapes. To get such shots, the producers had to go beyond the rules followed by many nature filmmakers who record unscripted events. Perrin and his crew hatched flocks of migrating birds that imprint well and taught them to accept the sounds of motor boats, ultralights, paragliders, trucks, and motor scooters. We do not hear motorized sounds or the calls of bird keepers, all of which were edited out of the scenes. In the special feature Making-of, the producers admit that their film is not real life but stress their recreation of nature.

Over 450 people worked on the film, 17 pilots and 14 cinematographers. Shooting took three years and another year was spent editing. Each minute of the film represents about two months of a crew on location. The movie was release in the U.S. in 2003 and is still stunning. Viewers with new televisions should borrow Winged Migration again.

Winged Migration. Sony Pictures Classics, 2003. 89 min. ISBN 9781404923096.

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