Il était une forêt (2013) Poster

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An above-average documentary about the growth of rainforests
yuehans4 April 2014
The world of nature documentary films is riddled with aimless, uninformative visual feasts. Even the high-budget ones often fall prey to this purposelessness.

This documentary has the noble distinction of following a subject closely : the phases of tropical rainforest growth. It approaches the main concepts and gives interesting examples along the way. However, the vulgarization remains heavy and the vocabulary remains generic and nontechnical, so don't expect a university lecture.

The aerial drone images are impressive. Flying though the branches of majestic trees with a cinematic image quality was unfeasible before the advent of drones, and the movie delivers in that regard. (And keep an eye out for the film's biologist, hiding perched in the branches at vertiginous heights.)

Many of the scenes are also augmented with schematic-style animations. Some of it is excessive, like the awkward flocks of butterflies, but many animations were well-executed, such as seeing the roots of ancient trees as if our vision pierced the ground.

The film succeeds in giving us a general perspective on the age and complexity of rainforests. Their timescale is that of centuries, but they can be destroyed in a day : the message is clear.
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They speak for the trees
Horst_In_Translation4 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"Il était une forêt" is the new movie from the Academy Award winning director of "La marche de l'empereur", one of the most famous animal documentaries in recent years. It's Luc Jacquet's first documentary since 2005. In between he made a fictitious movie about the story of a young girl and a fox, so the animal topic stayed current. As I am quite a fan of French movies I thought I would give Jacquet's new film a chance, especially as it was airing here in the original language with subtitles.

In contrast to Jacquet's previous works, this one here has less focus on animals than on plants. It centers on trees. Of course, there is animals included, but only in side stories related to those giant green creatures. Quality-wise it's fairly difficult to make a statement. Let me say it's probably as good as it gets for the topic and it may even be a must-see for biologists. Then again, as harsh as it sounds, it's just about trees. It trades the cuteness of penguins or foxes for a more scientific approach which may make it difficult to watch for children or people not too familiar with the topic. (That probably includes myself). It's just difficult to show how many centimeters trees grow annually and it wasn't particularly creative either to show the film's writer Francis Hallé writing and drawing on way too many occasions.

One thing I quite liked about this documentary is the music and you could probably say they tried everything to make this film interesting and appealing to masses: animals on trees, time lapse, animation (sometimes maybe too much animation even if it was well-crafted). I liked how they depicted the ways in which elephants, monkeys and birds carry the plants' seeds into new areas and are the carriers that cause plants and giant trees to grow in completely new areas. My favorite scene possibly was a plant that faked ant eggs in order to lure masses of ants there. These ants settled down and made sure the plant was not attacked by caterpillars.

The film is not even 80 minutes long which may have been the perfect length in order to avoid dragging too much and it ends with a beautiful camera shot of an ancient tree with a magnificent crown.
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