Monday, November 26, 2012


Not sure why this has been on my mind lately, but I've been thinking about the excellent stories written by people like Jack London (Call of the Wild and White Fang) and Virginia Woolf (Flush) that present life from the perspective of dogs and wolves.

I’m sure if I spent a few minutes I could think of more examples of fiction, or even creative nonfiction, that describes the world and the story through the eyes of some non-human animal—in a way that seems accurate, mind you: much as I love Watership Down, it would not be included in this category.

I love those sorts of stories, when they’re done well and feel authentic—and maybe it’s because of that that I find film versions of such books to be such a bad idea. After all, it’s hard enough in writing to build this different consciousness and yet remain as true as you can be to the animal’s nature—how can you do that in a movie? Either you anthropomorphize like crazy and have the animals talking, with those awful digitized “lip” movements, or you make a silent movie that loses all of the narrative power and is probably less effecting and affecting than a documentary.

So I ask you: is there a good way to show the (as far as we know) authentic lives of non-human animals in film? Are documentaries the way to go, or do they leave much to be desired as well?

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


Anca said...

I saw a documentary that's stayed with me over the years, about chimps hunting monkeys, finally catching one, and eating it communally. It was the most harrowing thing I've seen. There was matter-of-fact narration, without judgment, of the animal actions. As a primate, I identified with both the hunters and the hunted, and I was horrified on both counts. But, until we learn to photosynthesize, we'll eat other life.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The docs always have narration (and it was often Morgan Freeman) which puts the film maker's spin on it. I guess they feel they need to fill the air with something.

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