Reviews for Speechless – The Polar Realm
Perhaps better described as a lush visual poem than a documentary, this meditative exploration of the world’s polar regions and their adorable inhabitants features no talking heads and no voiceover, and is all the more dreamlike for it.
Offering up one stunning sight after another (the giant walrus sleepily rolling into the water is a particular highlight), the film is almost unbearably cute at times, but in a good way. As it nears the end of its 45 minute running time, an always-there undercurrent bubbles to the surface, and it climaxes with an SOS call for its melting subject.
In a theatre, this wordless wonder is a guaranteed to be a transcendent cinematic experience.
This film is a triumph, plain and simple. I came into the screening knowing full well that it was made by a New Zealander, then somehow through the course of watching it convinced myself it looked far too good for that to be true and must have been made by a large American nature doco team (how’s that for engrained tall poppy syndrome?). So then imagine my double surprise at finding out it is almost solely the work of one New Zealander, Richard Sidey.
This 45 minute montage of creatures and scenes from both northern and southern hemispheres absolutely succeeds in the difficult task Richard set himself of making a nature documentary with no narration whatsoever. It has both a poignant and skilful narrative structure and absolutely captures the broad audience who have arrived to see it. Through a wonderful and perfectly paired classical soundtrack, the film uses musical cues to highlight moments of levity, sadness, pessimism and wonder featuring a cast of animals ranging from yellow-eyed penguins to whales to polar bears to manatees.
Ranging in scope from the close and personal view of seabirds raising their young to the crashing of vast ice shelves, Sidey has told a story of ice-loving nature with a huge amount of restraint considering how easy it would be to make this a NatGeo version of An Inconvenient Truth. Instead, the film maker has left the takeaways to you. Though the message and intent of the piece is clear, he is providing the evidence rather than the solutions to the issue of global warming and in doing so, this pieces becomes infinitely more palatable for younger viewers to join their parents in watching.
Instead of turning into a chest-beating call to arms for Prius owners, it’s a sober look at the beauty of sub-zero nature and unfortunately could be a visual audit of species we’re about to lose. In turn, Speechless is unbearably cute, awe-inspiring and scary. But mostly, it is a true triumph for Richard Sidey and his composer Miriama Young.
A beautiful nature film that is, and literally will leave you, speechless.
Filmmaker and photographer Richard Sidey has seen more beauty in his life than most of us could dream of. He has spent the last ten years traversing the wilderness of our planet’s polar regions. Speechless: the Polar Realm is the accumulation of the footage he shot on his travels, a stunning visual essay. The film omits any narration, letting the images speak for themselves. After all, human intervention has already had enough of an impact on these awe-inspiring, but fragile, places.
Instead, the film is accompanied by a moving original score from local composer and sound artist Miriama Young. The pair have collaborated in the past, you can get a glimpse of the sublime result of their work coming together in the video for Miriama Young’s Inner. Musicians Mirabai Peart and Ryan Francesconi help bring the bespoke score to life.
Films like this serve as a reminder of the diversity of the environments and fellow creatures that we are privileged to share Earth with. It’s a must-see on the big screen — get ready to be blown away.