Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"This is a challenging and rewarding piece that reflects your own thoughts as much as those of the filmmaker."

Humans' obsession with animals stretches back to our earliest ancestors, when our forebears documented their hunting exploits on cave walls, and continues on through the moral lessons offered by the medieval bestiaries, suggested by this documentary's title. While few of us need to nip out with a spear these days and moral coding is a much looser affair, our fascination with the all creatures great and small shows no sign of diminshing. Werner Herzog touched on the issue in Cave Of Forgotten Dreams and Denis Côté's humorous and thoughtful film invites us to consider the relationship between man, beast and the environments where the two come together still further. What is the connection between human and animals and what does our anthropomorphisation of them have to say about us?

Côté suggests - although one of the joys of his film is that it is wide open to individual interpretation - that one of the reasons we feel the need to capture them, either physically in zoos, through drawings or by way of the perpetual 'life' of taxidermy is because we project our own thoughts and feelings on to them.

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Featuring, cleverly composed locked-off shots for the most part and shot at a wildlife park, Côté has created a moving artwork in both senses of the phrase. All emotion is here, whether it's the incongrous comedy of a zebra in snow or the sad sight of a monkey and toy. From his slightly absurd shots of an ostrich bobbing in and out of the frame, to the impassive stare of a buffalo gazing at the camera and the cacophonic and disturbing noise of zebras kicking against their confinement, Côté challenges us to look again at the animals and at the manmade environment within which they are constrained.

He juxtaposes the living creatures with a lengthy sequence of taxidermy that neatly accentuates our obsession with other animals. By letting his camera linger, Côté invites us to feel the emotions that watching the animals generates and then to look further at why it is that the sight of a handful of llamas can provoke such strong sentiments within us.

This is a challenging and rewarding piece that reflects your own thoughts as much as those of the filmmaker.

Reviewed on: 17 Jun 2012
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Documentary meditation on man's relationship with animals.

Director: Denis Côté

Writer: Denis Côté

Year: 2012

Runtime: 72 minutes

Country: Canada, France

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