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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Winged Migration (2001)



Reviews and Comments

It took four years to film this absolutely stunning documentary about birds in migration, and boy was it worth the wait. Even if you're not normally keen on nature documentaries, you may find this one enthralling. It's short on narration -- we only get a couple of brief lines now and again -- and high on seemingly impossible photography: we get close-up tracking views of V's of geese in mid-flight, top-down views of baby birds leaping off cliffs to learn to fly, and zoom shots through tree branches as birds hop after the camera. And the scenery is as much to look at as the birds: as a backdrop to the birds in the forefront are crisp views of autumn foliage, the plains of the American west, the icescapes of the Arctic, the cityscapes of Europe, the deserts of Africa, and more. Interspersed among the more natural shots are whimsical anecdotal episodes, such as a boy freeing a goose caught in some netting and an escape from a wooden cage. Though these episodes are obviously staged, they do illustrate the hazards birds encounter in the world.

The film isn't all a matter of appreciating the serenity and eccentricity of nature. It is blunt about its horrors as well. There are predators out there, hunters, pollution, and injury that can put an end to the cycle of migration. For the most part, Winged Migration does a good job of illustrating these dangers without brooding over them, and the bulk of the film is a grand and gorgeous depiction of birds and their lives that should enchant anyone with a keen visual sense.