Review: Nature’s beauty to man’s unnatural disaster

Tom Long
The Detroit News

The first hour of “Seasons” features some of the most beautiful natural images ever filmed.

There’s a fight between wild horses, powerful and disturbing. There are birds of all feathers learning to pump their wings for lift off. Flying squirrels wafting through the air at night, going from tree to tree.

There’s struggle, constant struggle. Wolves fighting wolves, elk fighting elk, even beetles fighting beetles. And there’s the innate tension between predator and prey: a pack of wolves chases down a wild boar, then fight and howl over the remains. Eventually every time a deer shows up you get a bit nervous.

Still, its nature in all its grandeur and occasionally gory glory. Watch as an observant bird steals an acorn a squirrel has just buried. See a fierce fight between bears segue into a close-up of a spider sitting serenely in its web before rain starts pouring down. Beautiful, breath-taking stuff.

And then man shows up. And things get seriously depressing.

Made by the same French team that produced “Winged Migration,” “Seasons” offers up a tale of natural evolution in some unnamed forest. For thousands of years, animals, bugs, birds co-exist in the give and take of natural drama. Then man starts popping in. At first it’s a random campfire, an outline in the distance, hunter-gatherers passing through.

But the film’s final half hour follows the progression of agrarian society, domesticated animals, hunting as sport, animals caught in traps, birds nests destroyed as trees are cut down to make war ships. Factories are built and the forest is destroyed. Wars are fought, pesticides are sprayed.

It is, intentionally, a total downer.

The film tries to end on an upbeat note with a narrator promising “a new alliance between man and nature is still possible.”

Yeah, tell that to those working at the EPA right now. “Seasons” paints a beautiful picture and then takes a somewhat obvious hammer to it, leaving its upbeat afterthought somewhat stranded. It’s a reminder of our awful ways, but do we really need reminding these days? Then again, perhaps now more than ever.

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.




Rated PG for thematic elements and related images

Running time: 97 minutes

At the Detroit Film Theatre