“Seasons” (“Les saisons”)
How It Was
At the end of the Ice Age some 80,000 years ago, wild animals lived in what has become known as the Golden Age of the forest. It was a time when everything moved in sync with the changing of the seasons. Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud (“Winged Migration”)directed this eco-drama of the early story of Europe as it unfolds within one distinctive place that many animals consider to be their home. This documentary was shot in the forests of France, Norway, the Netherlands, Romania, and Scotland and we see a variety of beautiful and entertaining vignettes of wild animals going through ordinary days — the birth of a baby doe and revel in the playful antics of other newborns such as a fox and ducklings; the playfulness of birds leaving the nest and learning to fly; footed wolves chasing wild horse; the majesty of Ice Age bison and the battle of bears for dominance.
During spring and summer we see the celebration of life and renewal in the forest of wild animals. Winter is difficult workshop for the creatures as they struggle to find food and shelter and fall is a transition from warmth to cold, from light to days with more darkness. Humans first enter the forests as intruders and instead of reacting in wonder and awe, “Man has become a geological force. He modifies nature and the seasons.” As they hunt animals, we understand that deaths devastate all forms of life. This “progress” for humankind leads to power plants and a deforested landscape where even animals are forced to leave and look for a new home elsewhere and become Europe’s first refugees. We begin to connect to the animals with their own intrinsic worth and goodness and their own unique experiences. Animals were with the same breath as humans and we need to be reminded of their kinship with us.
Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzard give us with a study of life itself, using the expanse of European forests to identify animal interaction and survival as it moves from a realm of activity to one where human influence has reduced the beauty and splendor of nature. “Seasons” is about environmental concern and shows us a strange new world where the wild is being threatened with extinction after having for thousands of years.
There was a time when Europe was covered with forests. Apparently, Europeans have not pursued nature conservancy as proactively as we have in America. We see some incredible up-close moments and use the changing of the four seasons to represent the passing of 80,000 years in the forest and show the wasteful folly of man as represented in impersonal dramatic recreation scenes.
“Seasons” is a near-silent look at the ice age origin of animal activity in Europe as it remains inside an enormous forest and nearby lands to inspect the circle of life in its purest form. The narrative track tells us of the development of early man as tribes become societies and gradually claim the land for themselves as hunter begin to rise up in power, testing boundaries. The human factor remains in a state of curiosity, allowing the animal kingdom to continue doing business as usual (the tireless war between predator and prey) as we see multiple examples of pursuit and consumption.
The animal footage, I understand is not staged, yet it does have a theatrical quality. Cameras track movement and walk through habitats, spotlighting individual behaviors and power plays. We see nature display its complexity without disruption.
The title “Seasons” has a double meaning—at first we move though calendar years to get a sense of quarterly adjustment and the opening of the picture experiencing an explosion of new life with mothers giving birth all over the forest (including the introduction of a wobbly fawn taking its first steps). The other meaning highlights man’s influence on Earth, creating his own seasons as survival that lead to farming and an industrialized world that strips the land bare. We see the aftermath of deforestation, hunting, and extermination with a connection between chemical development and the death of bee populations. To see nature as it was and how it is today is a difficult comparison to make and the chills we feel are intended.
While the film may appear to be yet another natural world inspection, it uses the art of cinema and the wonders of animal behavior to create an understanding of the passage of time and the draining of resources. While it is harrowing, especially during a final summation of the world’s ills, it is also illuminating, with Perrin and Cluzaud presenting a meditative look at the ways of the world, and how man has influenced this balance of life.
Bonus Features (subject to change) include:
– Making of Documentary (52 minutes)
– Behind the Scenes Featurettes
– Orchestra Featurette
– Animated Image Gallery
– Panel Discussion with the Filmmakers