Not Ďscience fictioní, this movie belongs in the
category of Ďexotic factí: from the fantastic creatures
to their remarkable lifestyles, Microcosmos takes us into another
world, where raindrops are the size of your head, your enemies
either fold you gently into their poisonous arms or spin silken
thread about you to immobilise you before sucking you dry. No,
itís not Wall Street, itís the field of flowers.
Two snails entwine and
embrace in a sensuous, slow-mo love dance . .
The Argyronet spider builds an undewrater diving bell of a
dining room using air it swallows and brings from the surface -
then throws the shrimp in and has a feast. Two ants share a
droplet of water. A cousin mosquito emerges and morphs into its
adult form out of the still surface of a pond like some
extraterrestrial. A eucera bee falls in love with the Ophrys
orchid. Two snails entwine and embrace in a sensuous, slow-mo
love dance . .
The Aveyron region of France provides the fertile ground for
the research required for Microcosmos, with its unexploited space
and suitable climate. The filmmakers, Claude Nurdisany and Marie
Perennou, live and work in the area. "Thereís nothing
extraordinary about it," they say, "itís almost
like a backyard. It is some kind of virgin land that has kept
much of its natural resources. It suggested to us the idea of the
unity of place: we thought this could be someplace where
unexpected things couu\ld happen. And we considered describing a
beautiful summer day and telling what was going on there. To
insects one day is more intense than it is for us. The day we
describe in Microcosmos is a sort of symbolic dayt, 24 hours
treated as if it were a whole year in our life, with all the
intense moments affecting it."
In showing the insects dealing with their everyday lives, the
filmmakers have tried to show the insects in a new light.
"Like living beings confronted with obstacles and the
difficulties of destiny."
"It was a small
Some shots took up to 40 takes, "and we needed great
understanding of each species". One such scene involves the
sacred dung beetle, which rolls up its pill of droppings.
"In this case, rather than wait till you come upon it, which
would be uncertain given itís such a rare species, we held
one prisoner for a few weeks in its so called Ďdressing
roomí - a luxurious terrarium! - providing it with the
conditions to do what was expected of it, namely make its pellet.
We provided it with the raw material, which by chance was
available, namely sheep droppings. Then we served it this hot
meal and we waited. In the end, one day it finally made its pill
and we carried it onto the shooting location. It worked and it
was a small miracle, like most of the scenes."
But not content for the insects to be mere case studies, they
showed the sacred beetle stumble and get caught up before finding
a solution. "We insisted on showing the small failures of
life, the troubles and all the problems that can occur. And
itís well known that itís always fun to see others in
"Humour makes it
possible to overcome distance."
Indeed, this humour was intentional: "Even when it is
scattered here and there, it is an important aspect of the film.
Itís of course a form of complicity. We have stopped
watching strange creatures: weíre on the same level. Humour
makes it possible to overcome distance."
The detailed knowledge needed to make this film was
accumulated over some 15 years of research by the filmmakers, who
are originally biologists. Specialising in the tiniest creatures,
their aim has been to unveil the secret world of plants and
animals. They made their first documentary in 1984, The
Inhabitants of the Mirror.