Movie Review - Microcosmos
'Microcosmos' makes
ground-level poetry

BY MARGARET A. McGURK
The Cincinnati Enquirer

If you're used to feeding your nature-show habit with television, you should do yourself a favor and see Microcosmos in the theater. The small screen will not do it justice.

This French film-festival hit is a close-up look at the teeming, vibrant world of insects that lies below the surface of a grassy meadow or hidden in the leaves of a tree.

Snails
Two amorous snails.
With only two brief speeches at the beginning and end, it runs almost without narration. The filmmakers let their gorgeous photography, accompanied by clever mood music, do the talking.

And such stories it tells. The film is constructed to follow roughly one day's cycle of life among ants, spiders, grasshoppers, caterpillars, dragonflies and beetles. A bird that appears briefly to feed on an ant colony has the impact of Godzilla trampling city streets.

The cycle encompasses birth, transformation - as in the riveting footage of butterflies emerging from their cocoons - food, combat, death, even sex. An encounter between two amorous snails set to operatic music is a treasure, funny, fascinating and emotional.

The movie is truly glorious to watch. It uses images of clouds and sky to frame its journey, and frequently switches to a wide view of untrammeled countryside where, presumably, our insect buddies are going about their busy lives. Even better are the intimate, breathtakingly vivid views of the creatures themselves.

Co-directed by biologists Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou, the film took 15 years to research, two years to design specialized cameras and lighting equipment and three years to shoot.

The result is educational in that it shows us something we have never seen before, but it is a poetic rather than pedantic experience. The film doesn't even name the creatures or explain what they are doing. It wisely leaves the teaching to its stars and to the imagination of the audience.


IF YOU GO:

Microcosmos
3 1/2 stars
(G) 73 minutes. At The Movies.