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Laramie Movie Scope:
March of the Penguins
(La Marche de l'empereur)

A story of the remarkable persistence of life

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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August 9, 2005 -- “March of the Penguins” (La Marche de l'empereur) is a remarkable documentary about how Emperor penguins survive in one of the earth's harshest climates. Like last year's “Winged Migration,” this film is the result of Herculean efforts by a hardy crew of cameramen to capture amazing images that make you wonder “how in the world did they get that shot?”

The documentary focuses on the reproductive cycle of penguins as they march some 70 miles from the sea to their nesting grounds, repeating the arduous journey several times during the nesting period, and going without a single morsel of food for up to four months in the process. It is an amazing tale of instinct, survival and stubborn perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds. The males take care of the eggs for several months in a region where the wind can blow 100 miles per hour and temperatures get down to 80 degrees below zero. An egg exposed to such cold for only a few seconds can result in the death of the embryo inside. The penguin guarding the egg must hold it off the ground on top of its feet. It must also keep the egg covered in folds of flesh and feathers. At the same time, it must constantly keep moving to protect himself against the cold.

The intrepid cameramen, using super 16mm cameras, were able to get intimate closeups not only of the penguins on land, but also get amazing shots of the penguins below the surface of the freezing antarctic waters. The project involved setting up a camp in the antarctic for the film crew. The crew remained at the camp for 13 months, “with no possibility of sea or air transportation,” according to the film's production notes. The penguin colony that is the subject of the film is the Geological Headland Archipelago colony in Adelie, located near the French scientific center of Dumont d'Urville, according to the film's production notes.

The resulting land and underwater shots are amazing. A penguin is as graceful and acrobatic in the ocean as it is awkward on land. We see penguins shooting through the water at high speed in the pursuit of food and fleeing predators. The movie makes a point of showing us how penguins are similar to humans, walking upright, guarding their young, capable not only of affection, but also jealous rage. Narration is by the mellow-voiced Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”), backed by an elegant musical score. This is a film which took an incredible effort to make. That effort results in a film that gives us an unprecedented look at one of nature's miracles. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2005 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)