At the end of each Antarctic summer, the emperor penguins of the South Pole journey to their traditional breeding grounds in a fascinating mating ritual that is captured in this documentary by intrepid filmmaker Luc Jacquet. The journey across frozen tundra proves to be the simplest part of the ritual, as after the egg is hatched, the female must delicately transfer it to the male and make her way back to the distant sea to nourish herself and bring back food to her newborn chick. Written by
La Marche de l'Empereur (2005) is a french documentary that features the habits of penguins during the course of one year: their mating rituals, their migrations, laying of the eggs, searching for food, etc. It also shows them facing a danger or two, and (what for me was the highlight of the movie) the moment when the baby penguins break out of their shells! The movie is visually astounding. The cinematographer has managed to capture extreme close-ups where you can see the pattern of their feathers, as well as breath-taking longshots of hundreds of penguins marching on the beautiful icy backdrop. There is also a suspenseful underwater sequence.
The movie is accompanied with poetic voice-overs that tell the story from the penguins' point of view, and gentle ambiance music. There are also a few laughs here and there, as penguins bump into each other or slip on the ice.
The movie could have been handled better from a dramatic storytelling stand-point, but it seemed the director was aiming to create a sort of poetic new age nature movie, and as such, it works perfectly. Admittedly, there are points where the style starts to wear on you, and some parts seem to be repeating themselves, but at 80 minutes long the movie doesn't overstay its welcome.
All in all, the movie is a memorable experience, and manages to be informative and entertaining at the same time, and even manages to be moving on occasion. And penguins are simply the cutest animals!
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