Monday, 2 July 2007

DVD: Genesis

Lowdown: Mythical mystery tour across the universe.
Review:
Some ten years ago this group of French dudes brought us Microcosmos, a film where the only "actors" were a collection of insects doing what insects regularly do. Quite the success story in Israel back then, it seemed as if I was the only one who didn't watch it (due to my affection to insects). Well, now the same Microcosmos group has brought us Genesis, a film that - according to the DVD cover - is supposed to do the same to the biggest story of all: how the universe was created and how we got to be here.
Not to be confused with its biblical namesake, this version on how things went along actually follows the real thing. There's this old black guy that speaks in a very myth inducing metaphorical way who acts as a narrator, taking us all the way from the big bang to death. And in between his speeches, the film demonstrates what it is talking about through some very flashy photography of live contemporary action. The big bang is demonstrated through what seems to be smoke, the formation of the earth through shots of lava and steam, and then moving on to live animal action as the film starts discussing living things: fish, frogs and sea horses, to name a few.
It's all very nicely shot and all, but the way that black guy narrates it just got on my nerves. Instead of saying things for what they are, he goes all "poetic" about it. Thing is, you can be poetic and effective, but you can also be a poetic pain in the ass; sadly, Genesis chose the second option. Instead of telling us what is really going on, the narrator just confuses things. Or worse, he even gets it totally wrong: for example, when discussing sex as the technique for life's continuation, the narrator in his all consuming sense of poetry bullshits about how lovely sex is and how it is the essential source of all life - which, as Richard Dawkins' favorite stick insect will tell you, is absolute bullshit. Sex is actually a relatively recent evolutionary invention, and there are lots and lots of animals of all sorts that multiply without sex.
Trouble is, once you remove the narrator from the equation, what you end up with is an 80 minute montage of interesting photography. It's nice to watch, it's all very flashy and colorful, and it's often very interesting; but it's nothing more than most other nature shows out there. David Attenborough would eat Genesis for breakfast.
So while it's no intelligent design bullshit, and while it touches some nice and interesting issues that are not often discussed, like how we are made from the matter around us and how we contribute back to that matter, Genesis is still bad. Why couldn't they just cut the crap? Why the need to try and cover everything with this layer of meaningless "spirituality" and "positive waves"?
Best scene: Shots of fish that can go on ground, presented while discussing how life moved from the sea to the land. Quite a fascinating fish!
Picture quality: The picture is very flashy and the shots are mesmerizing, but the DVD is betrayed by its single layer configuration. When the action gets tight, pixelization is all over the place, so abundant that it's really distracting.
Sound quality: This one sports a real aggressive soundtrack. Too aggressive: volume levels are way over the top, and the result feels way too manufactured.
Overall: Do yourself a favor and watch Planet Earth instead. 1.5 out of 5 stars.

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