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WHITE PLANET, THE

SYNOPSIS:
An exploration of the wildlife in the Arctic, witnessing the convergence of all the wildlife who are drawn north to a place that, for a few months of the year, becomes the biggest food store on the planet. Exploring the lives of polar bear cubs, seals, walruses, whales and caribou, among many others, caught up in the biggest migration on the planet, the film also touches on the terrifyingly rapid melting of ice in the North Pole region.

Review by Louise Keller:
With tight close ups of its magnificent wildlife, White Planet offers a magical window of life in the chill of the white Arctic. At times meditative, joyous and astonishing, the images are magical, as we enter the dramatic world, where crisp white snow and blocks of ice tinged with blue form a spectacular backdrop for all forms of animal life that thrive in this austere environment. While the camerawork is exceptional, taking us into places and situations we can only dream of, it is a shame the film's storytelling and choice of music is not of the same high standard. With a script by Stéphane Milliere and Thierry Piantanida, Sven Eriksson's narration seems trite at times, while the unusual music score intrudes on, rather than enhances, our experience.

A polar bear burrows into the snow to give birth and suckle her young. We watch as the mother licks her massive paws and tiny cubs, whose little blind faces instinctively find their way to her welcoming teat. After 100 days without food, it's time for the two young cubs to discover life on the ice, balancing on their mother's shaggy coat, playing, cuddling and sleeping. Known as Lords of the Arctic, the polar bears are the stars of this amazing glimpse of a winter world. Attempts to catch a seal pup for supper often end in disappointment (there is a 9 out of 10 failure rate), but when it comes, success is sweet.

You could be forgiven for mistaking the black hooded seal with the ballooning face for a terrifying monster, or the bizarre creatures of the sea to be from the imagination of a digital effects whiz kid. There are migrating birds whose wings become fins under the water and a giant octopus whose tentacles in extreme close up resemble an assembly line of symmetrical mushrooms. The walrus twitches its spaghetti-like whiskers, as it waits peacefully for the all night sun to revert into night. With the changing weather patterns, however, this is a world whose very existence will soon be jeopardised.

I would have liked a little more information about the animals' migrations and a better sense of time frame as the ice melts and the seasons change. Despite the film's flaws, audiences of all ages will be entranced by these breathtaking images. Let's hope it is not a world that becomes a casualty of the effects of global warming.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Capturing some wonderful 'how did they get that' footage, including extreme close ups of newborn polar bear cubs, The White Planet offers a glimpse into the Arctic, a part of our world that we rarely see. Not a tourist destination, it hardly ever features on the weekend magazine list, nor on travel programs. So it is a rare opportunity, but I regret to say it is somewhat wasted.

While many of the images are eye catching and fascinating by the extremes of nature, they have not been marshalled in a completely cohesive fashion and the narration is poor. It is not only cliché ridden, it is inconsequential. There are silences when we thirst for information about what we are seeing. There is narration where we hardly need it. There is no establishing of the reasons for the massive migrations, nor for why the animals do what we see them doing (apart from the obvious).

To make matters worse, the score insists on interfering with the images with strident vocal work (Inuit vocals and choir) which in a different context would be fascinating and valuable. Here, the score becomes a sore; not only does it override the sound of nature, it pushes itself to the fore, degrading the impact of the images.

The sense of isolation, of nature's extraordinary diversity - especially in some arresting underwater footage where a psychedelic flotilla of fish swarm in front of the camera - and the awe inspiring sight of a mass of caribou that become a force of nature, are some of the treasure that can be salvaged from this well intentioned but flawed doco.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

WHITE PLANET, THE (G)
(Canada/France, 2006)

La Planète blanche

CAST: Documentary

VOICES: Narrated by Sven Eriksson (adapted by Jean Lemire)

NARRATION: Jean-Louis Etienne

PRODUCER: Jean Labadie, Jean Lemire, Stéphane Milliere

DIRECTOR: Jean Lemire, Thierry Piantanida, Thierry Ragobert

SCRIPT: Stéphane Milliere, Thierry Piantanida

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jérôme Bouvier, François de Riberolles, Martin Leclerc, Thierry Machado, David Reichert

EDITOR: Catherine Mabilat, Thierry Ragobert, Nadine Verdier

MUSIC: Bruno Coulais

RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 6, 2007







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