directed by Claude Nuridsany & Marie Perennou
(ThinkFilm, 2004)

Believe it or not, the creation of the world can be pretty snooze-inducing.

It certainly wouldn't have to be that way, especially if you're the team that brought us Microcosmos back in 1996. That film, which examined the lives of insects in incredible close-ups and with an infectious sense of wonder, has remained one of my favorite unexpected hits.

Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou are back, this time with Genesis, the 2004 tale to end (or, really, begin) all tales. When you go back and back, into smaller and smaller atoms and matter and energy ... where does it all start?

As the griot, or storytelling narrator, says, "Where was that combination of matter that created ... me? Where were those pieces of the puzzle before the Earth's metamorphosis?"

Nuridsany and Perennou get credit for the direction and writing, and it just isn't up to their previous work.

The duo specializes in unusual camera work to help them tell their stories. And they can be peerless when it comes to their astonishing footage and sounds of the natural world, especially when they're in service to a larger story. With their images of a fetus slowly developing in utero, or a fin-legged fish with startling turquoise eyes scrabbling over land and then plopping back in the water, or the snare drum roll of millipede footsteps, it was at times enough to satisfy just through image and sound alone.

But for much of Genesis, I could barely hang in there through minute upon minute of churning oceans and overlapping tides, mesmerizing though the images were. It's gorgeous, but it can't really decide what it wants to be. A basic nature film? A spiritual experience? A combination of the two, along with an attempt to wrap up the entire universe in an hour and a half of images?

Genesis too often feels like that last option. And that's too bad, because it does pose questions that, really, do strike at what is at the heart of everything for many people.

by Jen Kopf
29 April 2006

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