Published Jul 01, 2005The long-awaited sequel to Microcosmos arrives with Genesis. Microcosmos was a groundbreaking French documentary that used microphotography to capture the life of insects in startling close-ups, slow motion and time-lapses. In 1996, I remember an audience cheering a scarab beetle, towering across the movie screen like a dinosaur, push a ball of dung uphill.
Whereas Microcosmos was a straight-ahead 75-minute pageant of dazzling images, Genesis varies the formula by adding a narrative. An Africa Griot (traditional storyteller) named Sotigui Kouyaté guides us through the origins of the Earth. The film opens with a screen teeming with sperm as we hear the sounds of children playing. "In the beginning," intones Kouyaté, "there was nothing, then chaos erupted, gases collided, and unleashed a ball of flame and matter that took thousands of years to cool down. Over millennia, the planet rained and rained, filling rivers and oceans. Simple organisms such as amoeba appeared and, driven by the force of attraction, merged to form more complicated life forms. This gradual process produced sea life, which eventually crawled onto land and continued to evolve."
Students of Darwin will not be surprised by the narrative, but will be impressed by the eloquence of the Griot Kouyaté, who speaks in a tone of wisdom that echoes the ages. The heart of the film, however, remains the microphotography. Montages of insects and animals mating and devouring one another are startling on the big screen. The sound of an insect's wings fluttering or its legs walking across the ground are amplified throughout the cinema with amazing clarity.
The only creatures missing are humans. The film feels incomplete and drifts to the end instead of concluding with authority. Still, Genesis, is a spiritual meditation at times and a mesmerising voyage at others. (TVA)