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A documentary of an expedition to Churchill, Manitoba to film the Northern Lights.

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Credited cast:
Gavin Connor ...
Himself - Rifleman
Brian Ladoon ...
Himself - Dog trainer
Don Lind ...
Himself - Representative from space (as Dr. Don Lind)
...
Himself - Cinematography and Direction / Narrator
Kees Verspeek ...
Himself - Priest
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A documentary of an expedition to Churchill, Manitoba to film the Northern Lights.

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15 December 1994 (Switzerland)  »

Also Known As:

Obraz swiatla  »

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1.33 : 1
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Himself - Cinematography and Direction: It may well be that the Northern Lights cannot be filmed. That nature cannot be filmed. That film or media is in conflict with nature. Is it just a surrogate for the real thing? Is film a surrogate for real experience?
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For the world is hollow and I have touched the sky
25 September 2014 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Definitely a ponderous experience, "Picture of Light" is not so much a standard documentary as it is a series of poetic images of the great white north accompanied by soul searching thoughts spoken by director/cinematographer/explorer Peter Mettler. The film chronicles his journey to film the aurora borealis at Churchill, Manitoba. Just now I tried to google driving directions from New York City to Churchill, and Google told me to stop wasting bandwidth and get a job.

The film features breathtaking time-lapse footage of the northern lights, but as it required 1 hour of filming for each 6 seconds, it's not like the 83 minute documentary is all about the lights. Most of the northern lights footage is shown in the last 20 minutes of the film. Leading up to those scenes we have lots of artistic shots of frozen wilderness, lonely trains cutting through the snow, and even some video from the space shuttle observing the aurora from 100 miles above it. Don't get too excited; there's no clear video of the aurora from the shuttle, only still b&w images.

The bulk of the film is made up of interviews with the locals. Some are fun & colorful like the motel owner who shoots a hole in the wall to demonstrate how a 2" hole will fill half a room with snow (I won't spoil whether or not it actually happens). Other locals like the native Inuit, seem very serious. One slightly disturbing individual, a hunter, talks about "bathing" (short for "blood bathing") where, driven by lust for carnage and a lack of moral inhibitions, some people go on wanton animal killing sprees. That part was unsettling because it makes you realize how some isolated northerners can engage in horrific practices like clubbing baby seals to death and going on wolf shoots for the thrill. But I digress... the movie doesn't dwell on those thoughts, although you could hear that the interviewer was a bit disturbed, taking long pauses before asking "But do you ever feel bad?" Most of the documentary is an awe inspiring look at the enormity of nature and humans' attempt to possess it. The themes are not predictable clichés like "we should be humble". Instead the recurring theme is a compelling thought about how/why we feel the need to capture & record events. This movie was done in 1994, long before iphones, youtube and viral facebook videos. So perhaps it was prophetic the director talks about how humans feel such a need to validate experiences by capturing images.

About the aurora itself: amazing. I would love to see this in widescreen HD, but even on the slightly grainy DVD at 1.33:1 it's powerful. Oddly enough, I was most impressed not just by the aurora but by the entire sky itself & the way, in time lapse, it moves and gives us a sense of our own general motion in space. Hence my title (a Star Trek reference for you non-nerds) alluding to the idea that this video actually made me feel enclosed and limited, in that we humans of the year 2014 will never get to step outside our atmosphere (if even our countries) to experience the wonders that this universe offers.

If you can't tell, "Picture of Light" has got my brain lit up like a Christmas tree as I consider the things I've been shown and told. If you decide to watch, be sure to give it your full attention. This isn't the kind of documentary you play in the background as you fold your laundry. It demands very brain cell.


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