Publicity Stills of "March Of The Penguins"
(Courtesy from Festive Films)

French version & Mandarin version, both with English & Chinese subtitles
Family Drama
Director: Luc Jacquet
RunTime: 1 hr 20 mins
Released By: Festive Films & Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: G

Released Date: 25 August 2005


Each winter, alone in the pitiless ice deserts of Antarctica, deep in the most inhospitable terrain on Earth, a truly remarkable journey takes place, as it has done for millennia. Emperor penguins in their thousands abandon the deep blue security of their ocean home and clamber onto the frozen land to begin their long journey to the continent’s desolate interior, a region so bleak, so extreme, it supports no other life. In single file the penguins march, blinded by blizzards, buffeted by 250 k.p.h. gales, resolute, indomitable, driven by the overpowering urge to reproduce, to assure the survival of the species.

Guided by instinct, by shadows beneath the treacherous ice, by the otherworldly radiance of the Southern Cross, they head unerringly for their traditional breeding ground where - after a ritual courtship of intricate dances and delicate manoeuvring, accompanied by a cacophony of ecstatic song - they will pair off into monogamous couples and mate.

It is time for the emperor’s legend to be told.

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Movie Review:

Love conquers all.

This is what March of the Penguins is all about. Unlike recent documentaries such as Bowling for Columbine (2002), Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) and Super Size Me (2004), this documentary film chooses not to delve into satirical criticism of worldly affairs. Instead, March of the Penguins indulges in the philosophical facets of life through the personification of the Emperor penguins.

In a sequential, chronological order, their life cycle slowly unravels before the audience’s eyes. From the journey to mate till the maturity of their young, the Emperor penguins never cease to amaze us with their resilience and determination to procreate and ensure the survival of their species. However, more importantly, this very process also alludes to the way humans should live.

In the midst of the Antarctica, at a certain time of the year, surrounded by icy terrain and tormenting strong gale, the Emperor penguins start to emerge from the icy waters. At first gliding on the snowy ground on all fours while sliding along on their belly, the Emperor penguins begin to stand up on his two hind legs as they travelled a considerable distance. The ability to change their walking style to suit the changing terrain reveals their fast responses to environmental changes. Life, it’s about adaptability.

On designated spot, the Emperor Penguins waited for their own kind. Hours passed and they waited and waited as one by one, their fellow penguins emerged from the water to join them. Never once do any of them stray from the group. Once everyone has gathered, the penguins began to embark on a journey to a mystical land known as Oamock, their mating ground. Life, it’s about patience and unity.

During this journey, the terrain always changes. But the Emperor penguins always find a way around it, be it a roundabout or a detour. One way or another, they always reach the destination. Life, it’s about problem-solving.

Once they have reached their destination, the Emperor penguins began to make their mating calls and search for their soul mates. Due to the unbalanced ratio of males and females, the larger number of females fought for the affection of the males. However, what’s amazing is that once their soul-mates is found, they will mate and stay together for an entire year till their young is brought up. Life, it’s about competition, monogamy and loyalty.

After they mate, the female penguins will return to the sea to acquire food for their eggs, which are being kept warm by the male penguin beneath their belly, and supported on their feet. When their female partners are gone, the male penguins huddled together to fight against the catabatic winds (masses of air that roll throughout the continent, gathering strength over thousand of miles), while taking turns to move in and out of the group. With heat at the center of the group, the male penguins take turns to keep themselves warm. Life, it’s all about coordination and teamwork.

On their own, the female penguins return to the ocean to fish for krish (small, shrimp-like crustaceans), fishes and squids. This journey back to the sea is not an easy one and every year, a few female penguins will fall prey to the leopard seals, the deadly predators who will seal both the fate of the doomed female penguins and her unborn child. However, the female penguins still made the yearly trip despite the danger. Should the female penguin fail to return in time, the male penguin will abandon his chick and leave the colony. Life, it’s all about making sacrifices and taking calculated risks.

When the female penguins return with the food, the eggs will have hatched. The male penguin will entrust the chicks to them and they will in turn head for the sea for food after months of starvation. Before they leave, they will teach their child the song that will connect both of them when he returns. Life, it’s about identifying and treasuring your loved ones.

When the chicks matured and are able to walk on their own, they are in turn attacked by giant petrels, who feast on the living chicks. With a considerable distance between the chicks and their mothers, it’s up to them to fend for themselves. Life, it’s about being independent.

In the midst of portraying the life cycle of the Emperor penguins, director Luc Jacquet never once sought to idealise it. Shots of frozen eggs and dead chicks at appropriate intervals of the film reveal the vulnerability of the species. At the same time, it also shows their determination to survive. After all, life is about accepting failures and moving on.

With soothing tracks and majestic aerial shots of the great wonders of nature, this film never fail to amaze, impress and bedazzle.

In fact, the life cycle of the Emperor penguins exemplifies the qualities that we should hold in reverence and epitomises the ideals that humans should possess. No words can describe the wonders of the Emperor penguins caught on celluloid. A watch is essential to savour its wonders.

Movie Rating:

(“A philosophical film on the wonders of Love. A Visual Feast!”)

Review by Patrick Tay

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