Home (2009) dir. Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Piggybacking on the popularity of enviro-films like “Planet Earth”, and “An Inconvenient Truth” arrives another nature doc showing us pretty pictures while scolding us for our naughty behaviour destroying the natural order of the earth. It’s a heavily preachy affair making us feel very guilty for our irresponsible mass consumption, but the stunning high definition visuals is a wonder to behold and more than worth the rental.
Glenn Close narrates this doc about ‘home’, aka ‘the earth’, aka ‘our planet’, which is shot primarily from air. The beautiful aerial view of earth allows us to see the miracle of nature and the stunning landscapes it has built over millions of years, as well as the mass destruction we have done to it over the last 100 years.
The filmmakers start with a history lesson explaining with clarity the formation of the earth, its gases, the water and eventually the life which was birthed from these unique environmental conditions. We’ve never quite seen these elements – rock, water, gas, ice – in this way before. Sure we’ve seen the National Geographic and the Discovery Channel, but director Yann Arthus-Betrand shoots the world with a grand cinematic scope it's often breathtaking.
The French seem to be the best at these types of films. Listing some of the recent documentary achievements of the last 10 years or so, “Microcosmos”, “March of the Penguins”, “Winged Migration” it’s clear the French have a panache with this material. Luc Besson even lends his name to this production, though I'm not sure what kind of creative hand he had in this, we know for certain, he wouldn't put his name to it if it wasn't a highly stylish visual presentation.
The visuals are superlative showing us the beauty of the planet. From the wondrous vantage point of the sky, the earth appears to us like a canvas of art, organic patterns created by the centuries and centuries of ecological evolution. And so the effects of our own man made patterns of deforestation, or river diversion in such a short period of time is alarming enough.
But in essence this film has already been made before, as "Koyaanisqatsi" in 1983, except Godfrey Reggio’s film didn’t need expository voiceover telling us what we’re seeing. Most of the words spoken to us by the husky voice of Glenn Close is unnecessary and often insulting to our ability to derive our own conclusions from the visuals. Towards the latter half of the film when the science and history makes way for the finger-wagging environmental agenda we feel like we've been duped. Close’s written narration even resorts to the first person, saying “you” and “we” in describing our culpability for our predicament.
It’s not all entirely pessimistic though, the filmmakers actually cite the positive actions by some of our nations to repair the environment - housing communities fueled by solar power in Frieberg Germany, governments who make renewable energy a priority, eco-friendly coal-fire plants in Denmark – an act of cheerleading which is missing in many of the previous enviro-cautionary films.
To spread the word about the film and its causes the filmmakers have made the film available in reasonably decent quality on youtube. See below. But I strongly advise finding a DVD, or preferably Blu-Ray version from Fox Home Entertainment for the maximum experience.