With March of the Penguins, Warner Independent Pictures and National Geographic Feature Films have released one of the most touching displays of intimate affection, courage, stamina, and neglect that the wild life has to offer.
Shot squarely on the dark continent of Antarctica, director Luc Jacquet and his crew captured the mating rituals of the Emperor Penguin by filming on location in the beyond freezing temperatures for nearly 13 months.
When they emerged, they came back with some of the most amazing footage ever captured on film and a tale that is sure to leave your heart warm, frigid, and curious about these precious birds from the polar playgrounds.
After feeding for months on end, the Emperor Penguins march for weeks on end in order to cover the 70 miles it takes to arrive at the Geological Headland Archipelago in Adelie. Once there, they will begin to mate.
When the egg is hatched, a long struggle is endured by the chick’s parents in order keep the family safe, healthy, and capable of making its way back to sea. Some won’t make it, but the ones that do will become a part of this sacred tradition that began over 50 million years ago.
Jacquet made his first voyage to the continent over 10 years ago where he instantly fell in love with the penguins and their methods for survival. He knew that a documentary would test his strength to survive in such frigid temperatures, but was confident that with a little discipline and the right people around him, a trip into the unknown would not be that far out of the question.
On location, the filmmakers had the pleasure of inhabiting Dumont d’ Urville, a French scientific center located just a few hundred yards from where the crew would conduct most of their filming. It was not a typical schedule Jacquet recalls. The weather was so ferocious that brief interruptions of tolerable weather had to be taken advantage of immediately. At times, there were only 2 hours of daylight per day.
Despite freezing temperatures as low as -71 degrees Fahrenheit and winds of speeds upwards near 150 miles per hour, Jacquet maintains that finding a crew was never difficult. Directors of Photography, Laurent Chalet and Jerome Maison got along famously and their seemingly everlasting bond transformed the images captured in March of the Penguins into photos of life at its purest form.
The beautiful black, white, and orange coats of the penguin’s fur make the screen look silky, smooth, and fresh with breath. Watching them roll down the ice on their bellies, shield the unborn chicks from the violent winds, and march single file through the frozen desert turns these Sphenisiformes predators into the most magical creatures on earth, a truly crowning cinematic achievement.
Underwater cameramen had to be reinforced with special 18mm thick wetsuits to capture the under ice feeding frenzies that the penguins enjoyed upon returning from their reproductive escapade. When the chicks are old enough to swim, the love and affection exhibited by the parent penguins becomes one of neglect, disassociation, and a tolerance for individual growth because they disappear, never to be heard from again.
This contrast of character turns this story from one of love, affection, and devotion into one of reproduction, support, and honor.
These penguins are cute, playful, and adorable creatures, but they must be honored for their courageous reproductive spirit, a spirit that is tenderly told from the voice of Morgan Freeman and the words of screenwriter Jordan Roberts.
This film is a crowning cinematic achievement and should be viewed by all nature lovers, fans of the documentary style presentation, and those that have the passion for a loveable story, but the respect for a natural phenomenon.
The film is rated G and the love making is displayed in such a tasteful way, but it’s important not to overlook the importance of such an intimate look at such a beautiful thing.
It’s a great film for parents to enjoy with their kids, but may even be a better film to help old people teach young people how sacred the reproductive process has become, not just now, but for millenia on end.