of the Penguins (La Marche de l'Empereur)
Directed by: LUC JACQUET
Starring: The penguins of the Antarctic
Released by: Warner Independent
Short: This lyrical epic by a French film team accompanying the emperor penguins
on their long Antarctic journey will linger
with you for weeks to come. It's documentary
film-making at its finest.
Ain't Easy Being a Penguin
Love Story in the Antarctic
a year, at the end of the Antarctic summer, emperor penguins
embark on an arduous journey of over seventy miles to
reach a safe breeding ground where they can mate away
from predators and shelter their young. In a single file
these creatures cross endless plains of ice in one of
the most unforgiving climates on the earth—as they
have done for thousands of years. Through this astonishing
documentary we accompany them on their long trek, spending
an anxious year with the creatures as they mate and give
birth to new life.
footage, including the long journey itself, as well as
male and female penguins delicately passing eggs to each
other, and amazing underwater shots of them feeding (as
well as being fed on) and frolicking, is rare and mind-blowing.
Narrator Morgan Freeman’s warm storytelling voice
contrasts distinctly with the inhospitable conditions
under which these valiant animals fight to survive.
But while you feel relief at not having been born a penguin,
their story is an uplifting one. True, if an egg is exposed
but for seconds to the ice, the new life in it is destroyed.
Penguins have to travel back and forth between the water
and the breeding ground, seventy miles each way, to feed
their babies, stumbling half-starved after not having
eaten for six months and having lost one third to half
of their original body weight. But it is also a love story.
Penguins are monogamous creatures and they give birth
to just one single chick a year. The astonishing close-ups
of the birds cooing, necking and petting each other with
their beaks are heart-breaking, and you wonder if there’s
more to Darwinism than survival. Surely, these beautiful
animals have feelings.
parallels to our human lives cannot be helped at times,
especially when the camera follows an endless file of
critters, blurring the image until it could pretty much
be humans trekking across the frozen ground. And again,
you wonder about the very humans who have created this
lyrical epic. They, led by director Luc Jacquet, lived
through the same cruel blizzards with temperatures dropping
40 degrees below zero. Somehow, they managed to blend
their lives with these penguins, capturing the most intimate,
delicate moments on film. At times, the overall effect
is just cuteness, but if you have ever wondered at the
preciousness of life, this film and its haunting images
will linger with you for weeks to come.
Credit: Jérôme Maison. © 2005 Bonne
Pioche Productions / Alliance De Production Cinématographique.