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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> August 2000 >> Microcosmos


Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
4 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
August 2000
IMDB Name:
Microcosmos (1996)
Claude Nuridsany
Marie Pérennou
MPAA Rating:

Real-life Bugs!

I've already seen A Bug's Life and Antz. Parts of those look lifted straight out of Microcosmos, a joint venture of French, Italian, and Swiss filmmakers. It's bizarre to see the slice-of-life tidbits which were only parodied there in full glory here. Ants really do drink from the rear ends of other bugs! When a bird lands with intent to munch on ants, it feels familiar. Of course, Microcosmos is a documentary. It isn't aiming for the same goal, freeing it to show a dizzying array of critters. I was dazzled to see a spider wrapping a freshly trapped grasshopper, using nature's plastic wrap! Of course, what insect movie would be complete without seeing a dung beetle rolling its prize. His path is blocked in a most intriguing way. As a human, we immediately see the solution, but we wonder how long it will be before he does.

All of the action is photographed in incredible detail. The credits list four cinematographers: Thierry Machado, Hugues Ryffel, and directors Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou. I'm surprised it's that few! The movie's web site mentions three years of filming, using camera techniques I can't even imagine. This is no mere set and forget operation, as the cameras follow the movements of most of the subjects. That the insects seem completely undisturbed by this is an achievement of its own.

Although the nature documentary feel is refreshing and most of the material is captivating, the movie seems ever so slightly incomplete. At least in the English version, there is a tiny amount of overly philosophical and insufficiently explanatory narration. The insects are credited in order of appearance at the end, when it's much too late to make correlations. It doesn't help that the credits are in French. Perhaps the intention is merely to stimulate interest, so that viewers will go off and research the bugs. The directors were biologists before becoming filmmakers, so I can believe they'd be trying to promote scientific exploration. Having too much information would saddle the film with an educational feel that it might never get past. Even so, the film should stand on its own, and provide just a bit more for those of us who won't be going on to read extensively or find a French meadow of our own.

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