"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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