In the “Making Of” sequence of Winged Migration, director Jacques Cluzaud explains, “this is not a work of fiction, and it’s not a documentary…it’s a natural tale of migration.” My husband said it best: “It’s like watching a painting that moves.” Whether or not this is a good thing is your call.
No two ways about it, Winged Migration is beautiful. This is the kind of movie that ought to be on in TV departments to sell the jumbo six-foot-wide plasma screens. Winged Migration could also do well in an IMAX theater, if not for the fact that there’s almost no narration. In the end, you’re watching birds fly. And more birds. And more birds. The scenery in the background is really cool. Obviously, this is the first time film has ever gotten so close to geese, swans, etc. as to actually have a camera fly with them. For the first twenty minutes or so, it’s fascinating, but without an educational, Animal Planet-style narration or some kind of plot beyond simple flight, it soon gets a bit old.
Perhaps more interesting is that “Making Of” selection on the DVD. Here we learn that these are not just any birds the filmmakers are flying with. These birds were “imprinted”-- hatched by trainers and taught that the filmmakers were their parents (and that brings up ethics issues: were they able to successfully join a flock when the project was over? We’ll never know). The 300 trips around the world, the time it took to put the film together, as well as the glider planes, rigs, and other equipment used carries its own inherent dangers and gives the viewer a story that’s far more interesting to follow than the movie itself. Also of interest, and maybe a little heart-breaking, is the clear view of the twin towers we see as we follow the migration of geese through New York prior to Sept. 11th, 2001.
For bird fans, film buffs, and those eager to surround themselves with beautiful, peaceful images, Winged Migration has the goods. For anyone wanting to keep awake and interested in a story, this movie’s a yawner.
Director: Michel Debats, Jacques Cluzaud
Columbia Tristar Hom
Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, Dolby
• DVD Features:
o Commentary by director Jacques Perrin
o Theatrical trailer(s)
o Making-of documentary
o "Creating the Music" featurette
o Photo gallery with filmmaker commentary
o In-depth filmmaker interviews
o Widescreen anamorphic format