The White Planet Jean Lemire, Thierry Piantanida and Thierry Ragobert

Directorial team Jean Lemire, Thierry Piantanida and Thierry Ragobert have created The White Planet, a vanishing land of polar bears, whales, birds and moose. The filmmakers unveil a fantasy narrative about this exotic world in the tradition of The Hellstrom Chronicle and Lessons of Darkness. Where those films succeeded (in spades), The White Planet does not. Breathtakingly intimate images of polar bears in hibernation, or of a giant octopus underwater, are subject to disappointing use of dramatic conventions. An immediate sore point presents itself in the form of unconvincing dramatic editing and sound. The entrance of a beautiful hooded seal is made laughable, dramatic editing fixing its terrifying appearance to reaction shots from a pup. Each time the hooded seal appears, its ballooning cap and bulging eyes appealing to the viewer as something stunning and exotic, the pop score emerges, is vanquished to silence for a cute baby seal reaction shot, and returns again. Repeat. For this English language release, cute, arrogant narration abounds. This is not an issue of voice and presentation but a problem with scripting. For the ominous English narrator, polar bears are "the Lords of the White Planet,” beluga whales are "the Sea Canaries of the White Planet” and so forth. These animals are allowed only what dignity the humans on their sidelines can personify to them, and that romantic equation between human and animal emotions, human and animal societies, quickly becomes tiresome. The music cannot meld with the beauty of the landscape — a clear product of the urban world, Bruno Coulais’s score sounds akin to John Adams in a discotheque. A very late message about global warming contradicts the seemingly unbreakable circle of life that has been presented and provides no explanation as to why (and no significant explanation as to how) this alien land is coming to its end. This is a film that comes from former members of the Cousteau team and it is deeply rooted in the romantic Cousteau mindset. Its astonishing cinematography would be worth the time of any dedicated fans of nature and environmental documentary, but bear in mind that it is that cinematographic virtuosity that makes its dramatic and structural failings all the more apparent and unfortunate. (Seville)