There is something completely irresistible about penguins, and I can’t think of any filmmaker who has done a better job of capturing that than Luc Jacquet. His documentary about their breeding season at the bottom of the world is engaging, enlightening, and unexpectedly moving. The man himself is just as engaging when I interviewed him on Jun 13, 2005.The conversation ranged from the dangers of arctic filming to the sort of cuisine humans can expect to find in Antarctica. And, of course, why it is that he would want to go there for 14 months.
It’s not that Luc Jacquet’s documentary, MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, tells the penguin lover in all of us anything about them that we didn’t already know. It’s that he frames it in such a way that the audience is allowed to experience the emotional life of these birds in a way that is compelling, intimate, and almost wholly un-anthropomorhic. Sure, there’s no getting around ascribing human feelings to what is shown, but Jacquet has rendered that necessary convention into a touchstone, rather than a conceit, for the humans watching them.
The most remarkable thing about MARCH OF THE PENGUINS is what it reveals about the role of patience and cooperation in the penguin world. Throughout the Antarctic winter, the birds huddle together for warmth, forming a giant mass against the cold. Each bird has its turn on the inside of this huddle, and each has its turn on the edge, yet there is no squabbling, perhaps because such behavior is a waste of precious resources of energy. Still, it raises the way penguin society works beyond a mere simulacrum of the human one, it presents it as something to which humanity might consider aspiring as we all huddle together on this fragile globe.