Ice and the Sky / La Glace et le Ciel (2015)

Just like most people beforehand, I had never even heard of Claude Lorius before, nor did I have the faintest idea who he was and what made him so special that he was the very subject of this documentary. But given how I try occasionally to broaden my horizon a little by watching stuff like environmentally conscious documentaries, I never the less decided to give this a go anyway after reading the outline because it sounded to offer some kind of an important environmental message. One of the rare decisions where in the aftermath  I have found myself so powerfully moved that it has actively made me start think about my life choices and their impacts on nature.

The film beautifully recounts Lorius’ fascinating scientific life story,  starting from how he, as a young lad, joined the expedition to Antarctica and spent several months enduring the harsh and dangerous environment of the land of eternal ice and snow, and how those experiences slowly turned into a lifelong passion and eventually lead to some of the perhaps biggest discoveries in scientific history. It is due to his decades long endeavors to drill and take samples from thousands of years old ice that led to proving that global warming is a real thing, and that our planet truly is getting warmer on a never before seen rate.

For such a dry, and if you permit the pun, cold topic, you wouldn’t really expect the film to be so stunning visually, but it is. The film repeatedly takes your breath away with its beautiful camera shots showing you the harsh beauty of the Antarctic wilderness, the giant mountains of ice and the vastness of uninhabited white plateau that fills the horizon in every direction. It’s absolutely gorgeous cinematography at work. The massive amount of actual archive footage taken during the various excursions that Lorius has partaken in through the decades, used in tangent with Lorius’ own narration through out the film, work very effectively to get you invested in his story and make you care about his message as it all slowly is revealed to you under your own very eyes. Unlike with most documentaries, the expedition archive footage in this case is the perfect companion to Lorius’ journey and gives you this bizarre sense of close one-to-one intimacy that you wouldn’t necessarily get if the film was just showing you Lorius talking directly to the camera like a normal interviewee. It’s very peculiar. I can’t think of anything else that I have watched before that has managed to create a similar feeling in me like this film, no matter how up, close and personal it has managed to get with its camera. And we don’t even really get to know much of his personal intimate life, the film sticks very close to just recounting us Lorius’ professional life.

It’s quite ingenious the way Luc Jacquet connects the theme of the looming threat of global warming to Claude’s personal biography and scientific breakthroughs as an polar explorer and scientist. It’s a brilliant choice of narrative that really captures your attention as the audience by slowly guiding you to the subject over time via Lorius’ research, rather than immediately throwing the global warming bomb at the table. The film never tries to sensationalize the subject nor does it worship Lorius either, instead it merely gives you the facts via Lorius himself presenting them through his own personal life experiences in his narration and the film leaves the rest for you to decide for yourself. And yet, as the film unfolds, it’s hard not to be swept by what he speaks of with such moving passion. Lorius has impeccable charm and you find yourself very easily to revere his enormous contributions to science and begin to pay attention to the dire environmental message he is telling you.

As you start to see everything in the larger perspective thanks to Lorius’ story, you begin understand the vital function that the Antarctic provides to the environment and how urgent it is that we begin to find solutions to unravel the mess of the polar caps melting that we have created in the past century. This is an exemplary documentary in showing how to tangle a subject as heavy as global warming and make it so easy to approach and digest while also make it highly entertaining. It provokes you to think about the planet in a larger than your daily life POV and leaves a permanent impression on you.

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