Winged Migration

Winged Migration

*****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

If you wait long enough, they will come. The trick is to anticipate their next move. No point in spending weeks in a hide on the left side of Mount Kilimanjaro, when they passed by on the right days ago.

They are birds and this is a movie about the journeys they take every year, often thousands of miles, "to fulfil a promise", not that anyone understands exactly what that promise might mean to diving gannets.

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They take to the skies and navigate by the stars - geese, duck, tern, cranes, little birds, big birds, often squabbling, always chattering, sometimes killed in flight by hunters - man being the most successful predator. Their journeys take them through icy blizzards, across blazing deserts, over raging oceans, into cities, onto the decks of warships, along the line of great rivers, beneath glowering skies, above a blanket of mist, into the depth of wild flower meadows beyond the pesticide-poisoned crop factories of the West.

Cinematographers accompany them, at times so close you cannot believe it's real. Marvelling at the magnificence of their achievement, in awe, even, at their tenacity and patience, Winged Migration is a tribute to the five film crews and the creative imagination of director-in-chief Jacques Perrin.

You cannot go wrong with nature, because of its strange and wondrous idiosyncrasies. But you can, because, in the end, a film such as this is not a wildlife documentary for the Discovery Channel, in which the funniest and most dramatic incidents are linked by a know-all commentary, it is a work of art, integrating the visual wonder of the natural world with an inspirational soundtrack and no waffle whatsoever.

When a duck becomes trapped in a pool of oil in a dilapidated East European industrial plant and the graceful long necked Canadian geese fall twisted like toys from the chill morning sky, shot to death by unseen guns, you despair at man's arrogance and cruelty.

And yet out in the tall fields of a backward nation, a peasant woman carries a pail of scraps for the cranes that have just arrived, exhausted from their journey, and lets them feed from her hand. In a boat on the Amazon, a parrot discovers a way of escaping from its cage and amongst the crashing waves of an Arctic sea, penguins dive and leap like acrobats, while in the mountains above the plains of Montana, wild horses stampede towards a flock of resting birds, passing them by.

This is a visual feast and an emotional experience that will remain with you long after the whip-poor-wills fall silent and the sun comes up over the lake.

Reviewed on: 04 Sep 2003
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Documentary following birds as they make their epic migratory journeys.
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Read more Winged Migration reviews:

Jennie Kermode ****1/2

Director: Jacques Perrin, Michel Debats, Jacques Cluzaud

Writer: Jacques Perrin, St├ęphane Durand, Valentine Perrin, Francis Roux

Starring: voice of Jacques Perrin

Year: 2001

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Switzerland

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