Picture of Light (1994)
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A beautiful and thoughtful film that veers away from presenting natural phenomena as simply scientific and somehow divorced from human interest and interpretation. In the end it's more than a nature documentary; the filmmakers take time to consider the effects of technology and especially media on our relationship to nature and, I suppose, "reality." A lot of the questions posed are sort of post-modernism 101, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be considered. Why create a "picture of light?" Is the image an adequate substitute for direct experience? Mettler seems to say that it is not, but the film achieves a beauty of its own, even if we ought to question its ability to capture reality. Can scientific exposition fully represent natural wonder? Is there room for the transcendent or mysterious? When Dr. Don Lind finally appears to provide an explanation of the aurora and its causes, it seems somehow inadequate. And yet, in some ways Lind's understanding leads to even more wonderment. This sort of tension and ambiguity runs through most of the film--to its credit, I think. Probably I could say a lot more about this film but it's late.
If you enjoy Werner Herzog's documentaries and his meandering style that never fails to take into account the human element and the absurd, I would recommend this film.
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