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March of the Penguins

   This film tells the story of the life cycle of the emperor penguins of Antarctica, who exist in a windswept, barren land of ice at the bottom of the world.   At the opening of mating season they journey to their communal mating ground, wobbling and belly-sliding for miles and miles across the ice and snow.   Once arrived, they commence their mating rituals.   When they find a mate they become still and bow their heads together in a loving gesture that is lovingly shot by director Luc Jacquet.   In such shots the penguins, who are for the most part cute and comic figures whose slapstick antics get laughs, achieve a swan-like beauty.  

The film is a testament to the fragility of life amidst the harshness and brutality of nature, to intimacy and tenderness against the great void.   The penguins huddle together to shelter their chicks from the raging storms, but nature is “red in tooth and claw” as the saying goes, and some of the newborns succumb to the elements.   There is an amazing underwater sequence in which a new mother, depleted and in search of food, becomes herself the meal of a ferocious sea predator.  

“March of the Penguins” is a film of tremendous beauty, best seen on a big screen so as to become engulfed in the vast expanses that dwarf the endless procession of little black penguins, waddling and sliding indomitably across this landscape so alien to us, enduring all for the sake of their chicks.   The odds of this National Geographic production hitting the big screen would have been slight just a few years ago, but the recent commercial success of documentaries has made such a thing viable.

Morgan Freeman narrates.    


- Jul 22, 2005  

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