A joint collaboration between filmmakers Peter Mettler and Emma Davie and writer and geo-philosopher David Abram, Becoming Animal is a nature documentary that transcends its geographical location and challenges us to question and contemplate our own existence alongside the wildlife and nature surrounding us.
The movie is shot on location in Grand Teton Park, Wyoming, and our visual and sensory journey starts as we follow the directors, Abram and a small team deep into the wilderness. A hungry moose fills our screens – his soft munching the only sound we are privy too – he does a wee, the audience snigger and the narration from Abram begins.
Introducing us to majestic elk, the writer talks of their guttural sounds reaching ecstasy and releasing into long anguished groans. Abram’s language is both sensual and poetic as he drifts around the idea that we are gazing and being gazed at, touching and being touched back. The simplicity makes perfect sense when presented like this.
A snail appears; recoiled, it slowly reaches out its tendrils and stretches its body. The slow, slimy, dance-like movements make us squirm but also intrigue us by giving us a glimpse of something up-close and intricate – an invitation to take the time to examine and connect.
The film hovers on lengthy footage of flowing water, wind-battered trees and birds circling above. The slow pace is both meditative and relaxing as we are constantly and quietly challenged to rethink our presence in the world, the impact of the digital revolution and where it has moved us – possibly disconnecting us from nature.
Particularly interesting is Abram’s examination of how even our language has become detached, our alphabet so far now from the markings of the natural world: the animal tracks, the lightning scorches on a tree, the rise and fall of the sun. It could become depressing viewing if it wasn’t so gentle in its storytelling.
The musical score becomes a mix of nature’s own sounds; college choirs and electronics are brought in where needed, but none detract from the filmmakers’ aim to encourage us to think.
No, it isn’t glitzy. No, the scenery isn’t shot for beauty, with grainy nighttime footage and long, almost boring cuts. But in the case of Becoming Animal, this isn’t the point. With the ending falling upon two crows dallying by the side of a busy road, it really is just an exposé on humans, wildlife and the increasing distance between us and our environment.
Becoming Animal is released in select cinemas on 22nd November 2018.
Watch the trailer for Becoming Animal here: