As the film opens, a disclaimer states that no special effects were used for the filming; then it succeeds in making you gawk in absolute disbelief. You aren’t a person watching birds fly. You are a bird. You are in the driver’s seat, soaring hundreds of miles above canyonous mountain ranges, racing along at breathtaking speeds, skimming across rivers so wide they look like lakes. You are traveling from the cold barren reaches of the Artic, of Siberia, Antarctica, and vacationing in the vast deserts of Mexico, the coast of Africa, the Far East, South America, Australia, New York. Suddenly you begin to realize how different the world really is, despite the small world facade that technology creates. From the elegant, graceful cranes of China, to the unbelievably massive flocks of West Coast sea gulls, you begin to take note in their relation to their human counterparts. You begin to realize that these birds share the same world; the same climates, the same food, the same problems, and you see how their presence has made an impact on the lives and cultures of people all over the world. You begin to realize that you will never see birds the same way again.
The film tags along for every aspect of a bird’s life. You don’t miss a second. You wonder how on earth the filmmakers got some of the shots they did, how they were there for such incredible moments. The movie has only just begun and you’re begging for a ‘making of’ feature on the DVD. The film never bores. These birds have more personality and charisma in their day-to-day activities than any roomful of people. There are some sad scenes that induce feelings of guilt in people’s irresponsibility towards nature, but it’s hard to be saddened in the midst of such a joyful enlightenment. The birds struggle through different aspects of life just like you and me, and they prevail. A sort of inadvertent plot develops: Nature’s own brand of storytelling (emphasized by a beautiful soundtrack).
By the end of the film, you seriously begin to wonder if there is anything better than being a bird. The freedom of the open sky. The simplicity of nature. The movie is humbling in a way that makes you grateful to live in such a magnificent world. It puts your own life and purpose into some grand perspective. How many movies can claim thatr
Even if you hate documentaries and slept through high school, as long as you’ve an inkling of desire to experience that dream of flying in the most visceral, personal sense, go see “Winged Migration,” but don’t even bother watching it if you plan to wait for the DVD. “Winged Migration” is one of those few movies a year that can only be experienced on the big screen, and it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
A+ all the way.
Running time: 98 minutes
Directed by: Jacques Cluzaud, Michel Debats, and Jacques Perrin