While in Scotland I wanted to continue doing my course, we had no SkyTV so I couldn’t pause any images and also no wifi. So as I wrote up my review as I watched the documentary.
Meet the Moose family, a humorous title for a beautiful yet upsetting production. Film maker and wildlife enthusiast Hugo Kitching heads into the magical landscape of Jasper National Part in Canada to track down a moose family and follow the baby’s first year of life. Whenever a nature documentary begins following a baby animal you can be guaranteed it’s going to be a rollercoaster. Every shot of a bear or Bald Eagle has your heart jumping as you are pulled along for the rocky ride.
After much fruitless searching Hugo comes across a mother moose and a beautiful baby who never fails to make me smile as it lollops along on legs like drinking straws and just as wobbly.
With soaring drone shots of incredible natural vistas punctuated by gorgeous close ups of the wildlife the moose share their home with this documentary is seeped in the wonder of nature. In fact the amount the photography of the other flora and fauna is so stunning it could stand alone as a programme purely about Jasper’s national park but it’s nice to have a story which keeps the viewers engaged. Several ducklings sit perched on a log with their reflections in the crystal water, a baby bear snacking on pink flowers while some groundhog watch on with buck teeth. Even the rain bouncing off the lake has a magical allure to it.
Whenever a new nature phenomonen such as rain or snow appears we are shown it in tantalising detail from every aspect of the forest, the water on the lake, the dew drops glistening on the branch, feet crunching through the deep snow.
As always throughout the presenter is amping up the drama, showing the many predators that would have a baby moose for breakfast 😦 Sure enough the panpipes sound and signal something isn’t quite right, the baby moose hasn’t been spotted for weeks. We are only ten minutes in so I’m hoping it’s just a trick of the filmmakers to keep the viewer watching. Luckily they receive news there’s possibly a calf all along ‘bedded down just in the distance’ The shot when they reveal this is when the mother moose walks off out of the frame revealing the baby moose behind her. Hugo says that she must have been ‘bedded down just in the distance’ the whole time which does make you wonder, was she really, did you just want to amp up the drama? But it adds to the story regardless and highlights the danger facing these beautiful creatures. To amp up the drama even further it would have been nice to have known the mother moose and her calf by a name as it would have added a more personal feeling. As they didn’t I named the young moose Berry and her Mother, Dawn. Later she was known as Big Calf.
The pacing off the show is generally very slow moving with extensive shots of milestones such as the baby moose learning to swim but it generates the feeling of peaceful moments of solitude . If the programme was like a film score I would say it would have ramped up moments of action such as a moose eating or walking then very long slow bits as we fly above the mountains or watch a sunset.
The music is apparent throughout, beating drums, tribal rhythms, sounds synonymous with nature and very in keeping with the nature.
Soon Hugo finds another moose mother and her calf and decides to track them both. Now I’m feeling nervous,there’s two babies to worry about now. (I called this one Buck.)
Hugo’s voice-over works well, it’s like he’s talking to the viewer. ‘Oh look, there’s a calf!” he suddenly says and even though he hasn’t just noticed it as it’s a voiceover, it makes you feel his excitement as how he must have reacted when he did first see it off camera. I like the inclusion in a documentary of the presenter, it does depend, in some shows the beautiful scenery is missed because the camera is focusing on the person’s face but in this it’s nice, he appears in a few shots but the focus is on the nature. There are calm moments of him canoeing backed by stunning shots of the starry skies and the moose family walking alongside the waters edge. Sometimes you aren’t sure whether it’s a voice over or he’s actually talking in another shot that has had it’s audio stripped.
The transitional shots from autumn to winter are beautiful. The camera pans as Hugo walks through an autumn lined forest and as the tree passes in front of the camera as it continues it’s pan suddenly he is walking through a winter encrusted forest. It’s beautiful, seamless and one of my favourite techniques. And the slow blend from a moose in a flurry of snowflakes bending perfectly like a rippled reflection to a close up of a fir tree. There are even subjective shots from the moose’s point of view as they eye up a particularly tasty bundle of pond weed packed with essential sodium.
As the finale continued suddenly wolf tracks were crossing over with the moose followed by scatterings of moose fur. There were no scenic shots anymore just subjective shots of Matt crunching through the snow, speaking his fears and then suddenly his face is contorted in sadness and we see the worst has happened. When the hoof appeared I switched off returning to it a few moments later to empty mountainous shots and a terrible silence.
The silence is slowly dissipating with a gentle rhythm and we see that Cherry is being cast out by her newly pregnant mother to ensure the best chance of survival for her new calf which is saddening and just stands to serve how cruel nature is.
And so the cycle starts again, a new calf facing it’s perilous year in the beautiful but deadly surroundings of the national park. The documentary goes from a cosy shot of the newborn calf curled up against it’s mother to a dark silhouette of the lake and water with the spine tingling howl of wolves to show that nothing is guaranteed in this heartless world and the danger is always there for these beautiful creatures.