Meaning, this is a movie to see, because you’ll like it. Really. It is indeed all about birds, with people showing up in just a few scenes (and even then often badly, as when hunters are shown shooting down hard-working geese, gamely migrating along in their beautiful aerodynamic fashion, only to be sent into a downward death spiral for the pleasure of a few guys who think it is macho to kill a defenseless bird with a shotgun).
Roger Ebert’s review contains some interesting background information about the film, which I won’t bother to repeat. “Winged Migration” has images that are unforgettable, which is more than you can say about most movies. It took three or four years to film, with footage from all over the world—much of it from ultralight aircraft and hot air balloons, so you really get a feel for what it is like to migrate, and fly, from a bird’s point of view.
I can’t understand how anyone could watch this movie/documentary and not come away more committed to saving the Earth’s remaining wild places, and wild creatures. “Winged Migration” doesn’t have much narration, so you don’t learn many facts about migrating birds that aren’t already well known. But it packs an emotional wallop.
I’m not a huge bird fan. I was deeply skeptical that watching 89 minutes of birds flying around and doing other stuff that birds do (which turned out to be eating…mating dances…nesting…preening…fighting…no evident pooping, strangely) would be very interesting. But Laurel reminded me that I had liked “Microcosmos,” a close-up movie about the world of bugs by the same moviemakers. So I settled in with a bucket of Salem Cinema popcorn and a raspberry Italian soda, not sure if I’d be able to stay awake to what promised to be a predictable conclusion: birds go south (or north) in the winter; and north (or south) in the summer; then, next year, they do it over again.
True, this is how the movie ends (and begins). Yet, in-between is so much avian drama and natural splendor, I didn’t mind the absence of a real plot, and human sex/violence. The birds seemed much more real than people, and our human endeavors, actually. The migrating birds have been doing their thing for millions of years. We Homo sapiens haven’t. The migrating birds are wonderfully adapted to their environment, and each year leave it as well equipped to sustain their existence as they found it. We Homo sapiens don’t.
When the movie shows the birds flying over the unnatural sprawl of large cities, or an incredibly ugly Eastern Europe industrial plant of some sort, I felt ashamed to be part of a species that does this to the Earth. Most people seem to take it for granted that people are different from other animals, and so have a right to screw up the planet for our supposed benefit. “Winged Migration” made me think, “We’ve got a lot to learn from these bird-brained creatures.” Their elevated view of the world, beautifully filmed by some daredevil camerapeople, is closer to reality than our narrow humancentric perceptions. Go see this film. It will forever change the way you look upon a migrating goose. And it will make you want to have an open season on hunters rather than waterfowl.