I taped this on DVD a few weeks ago and finally got around to watching it. The photography alone is stunning, and the otters are so beautiful. A sad ending was referenced, and at first I didn't know, but was watching with my mom, and when Ustinov narrated three bubbles leaving the scene, she was convinced and convinced me that it was the three otters: Tarka, his mate, and their baby moving to a new location. My almost 4-year-old granddaughter was watching, too, and LOVED it. She handled the deaths just fine, including Tarka's mother bleeding after being shot. The movie shows some death, but much more life. I like the music, the story, the scenery, everything.
Since writing this review, I have read other reviews about the movie, watched again alone, and watched it with the 3-year-old referenced above, as well as her 7-year-old sister. No doubt, Tarka died in the end, and the 7-year-old was very sympathetic with Tarka's difficulties throughout the movie. It didn't bother her when Tarka and the otters ate the eels or fish or went after chickens, her loyalty was with the otters and she kept saying she couldn't keep watching. Each time, though, she did keep watching and enjoyed the movie, and perhaps thankfully fell asleep before the last hunt. As the scenes went forward, the 3-year-old remembered the entire movie from scene to scene and was as enthralled the second time around as much as the first. But with the sensitive child, it offered what I perceive as an opportunity to see that nature is, among other things, cruel.
Tarka encounters marvelous and varied experiences in his full, albeit difficult, life. This little otter stepped out of the normal path because of being alone. It enabled him to be a worthy opponent for the trained dogs and even to take out one of the enemy in the end. This movie represents a triumph over adversity. Tarka finally succumbed, but what a valiant little creature from a fierce breed. Butterflies can be fierce, hummingbirds are fierce, dolphins live passionately and fiercely. It seems to me that this is an aspect of nature to embrace and celebrate, maybe to emulate, not to run from and condemn. Because he was so resourceful and good at surviving, he was able to leave cubs behind. His difficulties weren't limited to being hunted by dogs.
A final note about varying comments about anthropomorphism in the movie. My understanding of this fallacy is to attribute human qualities and feelings to non-human creatures and things. This movie does that in abundance, but I don't have a problem with it. I tend to take an anthropomorphic view oftentimes, anyway. Looking at Tarka's life from a perspective we can relate to helps us to relate to the life experiences of the otters. So I say, yes, anthropomorphism runs rampant in the move, and that this is okay. It takes the movie out of the realm of being a cold, emotionless documentary, the narratives of which, btw, are frequently highly anthropomorphic in their presentation.
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