Reviewed by: Mari Helms
|Featuring||Romance Bohringer, Charles Berling, Jules Sitruk, Morgan Freeman|
|Producer||Yves Darondeau, Christophe Lioud, Emmanuel Priou|
|Distributor||Warner Independent Pictures|
In the harshest place on earth, love finds a way.
A successful documentary presents facts artistically, Luc Jacquet succeeded. “March of the Penguins” is an extraordinary film narrated by Morgan Freeman (“God” in Bruce Almighty). The film follows a flock of Emperor penguins, for a year, as they emerge from the frigid waters of Antarctica and travel 70 miles in harsh winds and freezing temperatures to make it back to “where they were all born.”
After reaching their traditional breeding ground, they select a mate and are monogamous to that mate for the current mating season. After the female lays the egg, they will engage in an intricate dance to pass the egg from female to male. The male protects the egg while the mother makes the 70+ mile trek back to feed (the journey gets longer as the water gets further away due to freezing).
During the mother’s absence, the father shields the egg from hazardous weather conditions. The chick hatches while the mother is away, so upon her return she will see her chick for the first time. The father then departs for his 70+ mile trek back to the water for his food. The traveling back and forth by mother and father continues until the end of the season when they will all return to the water as a family.
Once they reach the water, the parents dive back in and part ways, and the chicks stay on the ice and will likely never see their parents again.
The movie gives a detailed account of the life of an Emperor penguin with many interesting facts. During the course of the year, the penguins seemingly show signs of love, jealously and grief for a variety of reasons. You may feel you know more about Emperor penguins than you ever wanted to know, but there are life lessons that can be learned.
It is a story of nature, not of Hollywood, so gone are the special effects and computer imaging. They are replaced with actual, breathtaking footage of Antarctica splendidly captured by filmmakers. The temperatures drop as low as 80° below zero, and the winds rage at 100 mph, which makes the filming of this movie phenomenal. Stay for the credits to see actual behind-the-scenes footage.
VIOLENCE: The violence in the film is brief and mild, only depicting what truly happens in nature. In one scene, a Leopard seal eats a penguin, and a couple of close-up images of the seal’s mouth and teeth just prior to the attack may be a little frightening for a young child. The actual attack is not shown, only implied. In another scene, a bird is preying on the newly-hatched chicks, and one is caught and eaten by the bird. It is obvious when these scenes are about to take place, if you felt the need to cover your child’s eyes.
DISTURBING: Some chicks die due to the elements, and they show one dead that may upset a young child.
SEX/NUDITY: The penguins mate during the film, but it is understood, not shown.
OBJECTIONABLE: The male and female penguins select a mate and are monogamous to each other for that season only. Morgan Freeman says, “All bets are off” referring to the next season when they will choose a different mate. It seemed inappropriate and out of place in relation to the rest of the movie.
“March of the Penguins” has lessons to teach about:
“LOVE”: According to the film, the penguins take this tremendous journey for “love” and to find a mate and reproduce. The dedication, cooperation, and affection are exemplary between the pair.
PERSEVERANCE: We could learn a lot about perseverance from Emperor penguins. I was quickly reminded of the ant in Proverbs 6:7-8 “It has no commander, overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” No one is reminding these penguins what to do; they know what to do, and they do it. They are prepared, persistent and committed, much like we are called to be as witnesses for Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:15 “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
The penguins endure treacherous conditions, yet they continue on their journey, focusing on what lies ahead (new life). It may be a bit of a stretch, but I thought of what we, as Christians have to endure to get what lies ahead for us (eternal life). Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD: One year in the life of an Emperor penguin is a great indication of the existence and character of God. Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” He is absolutely perfect! Every detail has been taken into account, and every provision has been made. Witnessing all the love and care that He must have put into creating the penguins is small compared to what He put into creating us. Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Leaving the theater, I was more in awe and in love with my Creator.
FRIENDSHIP/COMMRADERIE: All the penguins wait to start their journey until the last of them is out of the water, giving a sense of unity. As the penguins make their journey, they will all stop from time to time until one of them picks up the trail again, and then they all start moving. It is similar to what we are called to do in the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.”
While the fathers are caring for their unhatched chicks and braving the harshest of weather, they all huddle together in a huge heap for warmth. The ones on the outside rotate, so they all have a turn in the middle. Philippians 2:2-4 “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
I was truly fascinated by the lives of these penguins, maybe because I felt we as humans could emulate much of it and be better followers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They all worked together towards a common goal; there was no fighting, gossiping and disorder. There was apparent “love,” cooperation and order. 1 Corinthians 12:25 “so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”
I found the movie exciting and educational (but my three year old found it boring). What a great feeling it was to leave the theater without watcher’s remorse (sitting through a movie that went against my value system or offended my Lord and Savior). It was weird to see something on the big screen that I would normally watch on PBS on my 26-inch television. I would see “March of the Penguins” again, but not in the theater—in the cost-effective, comfort of my living room.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.