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March Of The Penguins | Analysis

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1810 words Published: 5th May 2017

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The emperor penguins have a unique and exhausting mating ritual, which is said to exemplify a traditional family life. While originally intended to be a simple nature documentary, March of the Penguins, turned into a phenomenon in the United States. Many people viewed the Emperor penguins’ dedication to their families and the mating ritual as a model for a traditional and conservative family that most Americans are lacking. Family values are a somewhat controversial issue due to its large basis in ethics. Ethics is a set of guidelines or morals that people or a culture use as a rubric for good or bad behavior and decisions. The family values promoted in March of the Penguins are ethical according to the American way of life. This film was produced by French filmmakers and narrated by Morgan Freeman. Furthermore, it was “the second highest grossing film” in the United States (Miller). After premiering in the United States, reviews began to circulate that raved of the conservation values pushed in the film as well as traditional family values. The documentary, March of the Penguins, was highly successful due to the interpretation of the portrayal of conservation in a non-scientific manner and the family values promoted by personifying the penguins in the film.

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March of the Penguins is a documentary created and produced by French filmmakers, Luc Jaquet, Michael Fessler, and Bonne Pioche, which documents the yearly journey of the emperor penguins in Antarctica. Narrating the American version of the film is by the infamous Morgan Freeman, who is notorious for his voice that can make any moment on film moving and meaningful. Utilizing him as the only human voice heard in the film gives it much more of an impact on audiences of all walks of life. The writers and producers created a film that document the incredible journey that these amazing animals make each year and their mating rituals that are unlike any other.

Emperor penguins have many fine characteristics, that unless seen up close they would never be visible to the human eye. “Emperors are the largest of all penguins-an average bird stands some 45 inches (115 centimeters) tall (Forsteri)”. Emperor penguins are the father of all penguins. Each summer the Emperor penguins hunt and feed on fish in the ocean. The penguins instinctively begin their journey seventy miles inland as a species to the mating grounds where they then find their perfect mate for the next year. While at the mating grounds, the female emperor penguin gives birth to a single egg. After she gives birth, she leaves for the ocean to feed again while the male emperor penguin remains at the mating grounds with the other males to warm and protect their egg all through the brutal winter. These penguins attain their physical features in order to survive the harsh habitat they have to reside in. The males wait until the females return in the spring when their young hatch from their eggs. The winter is extremely relentless and harsh in Antarctica, especially inland where the mating ground is. There are several sunless days and many more with little sunlight. The males have no food to eat and must rely on the fat they built up over the summer to feed them and keep them warm through the season. These penguins use many conservation tactics in order to survive in the worst of times. By the time the egg has hatched, emperor penguins will have fasted about 65 days through icy temperatures and they will have survived the brutal wind chills of inland Antarctica reaching as low -76°F (Forsteri). To help survive, the males all gather in a large huddle with their backs to the outside to keep warm. They rotate turns being on the outside where it is the coldest and being in the center where it is the warmest. By learning and utilizing how penguins conserve can only benefit everyone on a global level. Reducing our own carbon footprint will decrease the effects of Global Warming. One of the most important things we can do, as penguins do, is work in a group. Humans should help others and work with others in conserving energy, similar to the way emperor penguins work as a group to keep each other warm. Humans can cut down on the use of air conditioning and heat, for example, which will save a vast amount of energy. There are numerous ways for humans to conserve our habitat, similar to the way penguins conserve their habitat which will help our earth as a whole.

The females then return in the spring just as their young are hatching so that they can feed them and relieve the males from their long months of protecting their offspring with no food. “The mothers take the task of teaching the young penguin chicks about the world, because one day soon those baby chicks will have to carry on the tradition for the survival of their species (Anderson)”. As in traditional American families, the mother penguin is in charge of caring for their offspring after they emerge from the egg.

The filming technique in March of the Penguins is impressive and gives the documentary a much more up close and personal feeling. There are many close-ups of the penguins throughout the documentary. Additionally, scenes reveal footage that have never been captured on film. One of the more touching moments occurs during the mating season, an Emperor penguin couple pose with their heads bowed down together in an almost kissing embrace. They were also able to capture the penguins as they were feeding underwater during the summer, preparing to make their amazing journey inland for the winter. Being able to see these creatures up close puts the viewers in their shoes, if they could wear any. The shots that these videographers were able to capture are breathtaking and captivating, in turn keeping the audience enthralled throughout an otherwise boring and straightforward documentary. The filming techniques in this documentary are most definitely a large part of the reason for its huge success in the United States.

The translation appears that the message of family values is a form of expression through the movie March of the Penguins. Let us assume that when groups of people watch or listen to a film, each individual will interpret the information differently. People’s personal views are ethically different, depending on what he or she understands and perceives to be true and right. When interviewed by the London Times March of the Penguins director Jacquet, “who has never made a film for the cinema before, is concerned that his documentary has been hijacked. For me there is no doubt about evolution. I am a scientist. The intelligent design theory is a step back to the thinking of 300 years ago. My film is not supposed to be interpreted in this way” (Malvern). Yet by examining the film, its message reveals a strong suggestion of traditional family values and monogamy.

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For example, the film’s story of unswerving portrayal that penguins function in the same manner each mating season cycle. It reinforces monogamous heterosexual family makeup as a natural and necessary part of life. The story of the penguins depicts total parental sacrifice and dedication to the offspring and the traditional family structure. First, in the scenes in which the penguins are having intercourse are only implied. The director only reveals intimate shots of wings and beaks, as tender loving music plays in the background. This parallels the idea of traditional family values, rather than the actual act shown, as if the penguins’ intercourse is offensive. Furthermore, the film characterizes the penguin “family” as incomplete unless both parents and the chick are together, seeing that a single parent does not represent a traditional family structure. One scene in the film, a mother penguin loses her chick, Morgan Freeman expresses that “the loss is unbearable” and the film illustrates painful flashbacks in reference to the moments that the mother cherishes with her chick. The insinuation of these scenes to many traditional families understandably personifies penguins, as if they are the perfect human. It is unspoken that mothers should only exist for the welfare of their children and family. “Somehow a notion has taken root that there is a whole persona that you have to adopt to impress people and convince them you have the perfect family (Ferguson, 148).” No individual is perfect, nor is any family by any means. Taking a closer look at this film assists families in evaluating their own family value system.

As a scientist Jacquet realized, “What I really discovered [in Antarctica] was my desire to be a storyteller,” he explains. “There are other people there who know the story; there are geologists and physicians and meteorologists and they experience all of this, but I felt like it was really my calling to be able to share this with the outside world (Grady).” The film imitates human characteristics, such as the closeness of the family unit. The film portrays the story of the penguins as a “love tale”, displaying the unconditional love of the family dynamics through sacrifice, discipline, and unconditional love for their children, that we as individuals could learn from. Lastly, the documentary was not scientific in how they depicted the tale of the Emperor penguin. Richard A. Blake, co-director of the film, states “You get a sense of these animals – following their natural instincts – are really exercising virtue that for humans would be quite admirable,” he said. “I could see it as a statement on monogamy or condemnation of gay marriage or whatever the current agenda is (Miller).” By humanizing the story, the audience is able to effectively grasp and sympathize with the lives of the penguins, by association with their own.

Conservation and family values are important subjects to Americans today. Both influence their lives in various but important ways. Having good conservation practices and being concerned with the atmosphere will help better our environment and the world for those who are yet to come in the future. Family values affect how people act and react to situations and carry themselves among their families. How a person is raised in their home as a young person up until their adulthood shapes them into who they will become. This then affects how they treat others and how they decide what is wrong or right in society once they are on their own. The documentary, March of the Penguins, is a film that inspires audiences in America to become more environmentally conscious and better their family life and values at home.


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