Becoming Animal


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Becoming Animal
"If this was a lecture it would be an intellectual maze into which students lose themselves and never find a way out"

There comes a moment early on when you begin to wonder what is going on because pictures of fallen trees, standing trees, water in a stream, water in a lake, wind blowing through branches, an elk breathing, an elk peeing, a man in a trilby hat and lumberjack shirt talking gobbly about "When touching things I feel touched by those things" is either so boring you want to eat your eyes or so pretentious you hitch a ride to the nearest bookshop and buy a Beano Annual to get your head straight.

Visually this is as far from the Attenborough franchise as is humanly possible and the makers of Becoming Animal don't become animals which is disappointing. "My awareness is in direct contact to theirs," the voice says - "theirs" are trees, by the way.

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Listen carefully: "The water itself speaks." OK?

"Everything is alive, everything is expressive." And, yes, "Nature is a tricky word."

The concept is based on a belief that all living beings and living things are connected by a sensual thread. Modern technology will turn us into robots, or rather robots will turn us unto robots, which means we lose our natural language.

If this was a lecture it would be an intellectual maze into which students lose themselves and never find a way out. Because it's a film the visuals have to illustrate the words and that's where it falls down a black hole.

Unless you live with David Lynch in a parallel universe the words are random and don't fit the silence that follows the storm. We are the trees and the trees are us - ad infinitum tumultuous!

A lazy bison stops traffic on the highway. What is this telling us? The men in the cars are pathetic (being human) because all they have to do is honk a horn, get out and wave their arms or drive past the animal on the other side of the road. But they don't. Perhaps they see the camera and prefer to hide.

The film lasts just over an hour. It feels like just over a day. Shot in one of America's national parks you are waiting for gasp-a-lot photography that will rock your socks. It doesn't happen because this is about ideas and ideas are non visual.

To the uninitiated nature appears anarchic and cruel. To those who empathise with the leaves on the trees, it is a friend.

It is family.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2018
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Audiovisual essay considering the spaces where humans and animals meet.
Amazon link

Director: Emma Davie, Peter Mettler

Year: 2018

Runtime: 78 minutes

Country: Switzerland, UK


EIFF 2018

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