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Chris Evans

Published December 14th, 2005 | by Chris Evans

March of the Penguins Review

Classification: U Director: Luc Jacquet Rating: 4/5

This easy viewing documentary film reveals the untold story of the majestic, but rather comical, emperor penguins as they labour through a vast labyrinth of ice in the Antarctic to find a soul-mate.

This romantic rendezvous, or breeding ritual, has been performed for hundreds of thousands of years, but has never been witnessed or shot by man before, according to French director, Luc Jacquet.

It is soon clear why, as the camera pans across the vast desert of ice where temperatures can drop to –80 degrees and winds reach up to 100mph. Antarctica’s sole inhabitants are the fury, flippered, flightless wonders depicted in this film.

Despite the gruelling landscape and blinding blizzards, the penguins waddle from side to side in a long straight line for over 70 miles every March to reach their breeding ground. Once there, a cacophony of noise erupts as the mating rituals begin.

According to the narrator, Morgan Freeman, emperor penguins are monogamous creatures with only one breeding partner a year. As a result there are amusing scenes of outnumbered females battling one another for a male partner. The males of course just stand back and enjoy the show, goading them on with their flippers.

After a few weeks of pushing and shoving they are all paired off. By June, the eggs appear, from which point the penguin parents struggle to keep their chicks alive in the biting cold temperatures, taking it in turns to return to the sea for food.

Cinematographers Laurent Chalet and Jerome Maison combine to depict an awe inspiring, but unforgiving landscape as penguins drop down dead from exhaustion beneath the heavenly, southern lights swirling above them.

There are two very memorable scenes, one of the male penguins huddled together for warmth, forming the shape of the United Kingdom on the ice, and the other is of the female penguins darting like bullets through the depths of the ocean in search of food.

This is a beautifully shot film that takes you on an emotional roller-coaster of a ride, combining moments of comedy as the chicks attempt to walk for the first time with tragedy as predators swoop for the kill. Freeman also does a good job of providing insightful commentary to support scenes of great intimacy between our tuxedoed friends.

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