We finally took my two year old to see March of the Penguins. We went to the movie theater after his nap, with an insulated bag full of snacks (grapes, cucumber slices and cheddar cheese). We bought popcorn and bottled water, and sat in the middle of the theater.
Amazingly, my son was able to sit through the whole picture. He did switch laps a few times. He was very excited about the movie. As soon as the penguins appeared on the screen, he began saying "Penguins! Penguins!" and didn't stop for about 20 minutes, maybe longer. Then there was a lull, in which he just watched and ate treats. Then the egg appeared, and he started exclaiming "Egg! Egg!" and then was quiet again until the chicks. The chicks excited him the most, he commented on them and on their parents feeding them, as he does at home. But then, for him, the most exciting part was looking behind him and seeing the movie on the surface of the window of the projectionist's booth! After the picture was over, we asked the projectionist to let us see how the movie works, and he graciously showed us. How much my son understood I don't know, but it was neat.
Let me also tell you something about the movie, especially to my reader Beth who has to wait until it comes out on DVD to see it. As you probably have gathered, it's a scripted documentary about emperor penguins mating and raising young in Antarctica. The film, a full-length feature at 80 minutes, has great pacing. It felt short! The penguins are beautiful, getting to watch them walk and slide over the landscape was incredible. The film editor managed to capture both the sense of the birds' nobility and grace and how comic and cute they are.
Probably the most beautiful thing to watch was the mating dance. The emperors bow to each other, and caress each other with their beaks and heads, before they mate. It looked stylized but also affectionate, if that makes sense. I couldn't tell if I was anthropomorphizing the birds or whether they have the emotions we ascribe to them. It's really hard to raise penguin chicks, there are so many opportunities to screw it up. After the mothers lay their eggs, they have to transfer them to the father's feet. If they fail, the egg will freeze quickly. The cries of the penguins who made this mistake sounded disappointed, they looked sad. Penguin chicks, once they hatch, are similarly vulnerable. The filmmaker captured a mother whose chick had frozen during a blizzard, who then tried to steal another mother's chick. The bereft mother's cries of grief, and then the way that the other mothers prevented her from stealing the chick--it felt biblical to me.
We are definitely going to buy this on DVD because I hope there will be more information about how they made the film. There were some shots of the camera crew in the credits, but not nearly enough.
I don't know if my son will stay infatuated with penguins but I am definitely hooked. I am not the most perfectly religious person, but seeing beautiful things in the natural world brings out my inner believer. The penguins are brave and noble and they cooperate in community, they love each other, they stick together in a crisis. They also fight with each other, slapping each other with their flippers and yelling in their honking voices. They walk funny and they have sweetly funny faces. Yes, yes, just like my people.