Borealis features footage from deep in the Canadian north. It explores the black spruce and birch of the forest. It also explores the manner in which they experience life in community with their surroundings. The trees and the surrounding wildlife speaks to one another in ways that support each other. They even recognize the appropriate time to succumb to wildfires in order to begin again. However, as humanity continues to invade these territories, the environment begins to shift. This invasion confuses an eco-system that once worked in perfect harmony.
Kevin McMahon wrote and directed Borealis . It is a beautiful documentary that lets the beauty of nature speak mostly for itself. By eliminating human witnesses and utilizing only voiceovers throughout the film, McMahon puts the emphasis solely on creation. Admittedly, this directorial choice can cause the film’s pacing to drag at times. But it does feel less jarring than inserting random interview snippets. It rightly allows and immerses the viewer in the wonders that are the Boreal forests.
Featuring some truly cinematic visuals, Borealis feels both intimate and omniscient. It hovers over the landscapes from above or zooms in to the micro levels of photosynthesis. McMahon wants the viewer to understand the complexities of the relationships involved within the natural (or unnatural) processes. The forest’ flora and fauna are wildly different in their needs and approaches to life. But the film shows that every aspect of the area works together in ways that benefits the entire community. The community endures destruction and rebirth of fire or the arboreal awareness of the forest and its creatures. It shows the connections within the natural world. It looks for opportunities to serve one another and aid in each other’s growth.
Of course, complicating matters for the area is the infestation of man. They repeatedly attempt to invade and pillage the resources available. Man continues its abuse of clearcutting forests or simply ignoring issues such as global warming. In this, Borealis shows man as the true enemy to nature. They confuse creatures and ruins the symbiotic relationship that they enjoy with nature. Even humanity’s desire to simply live near or ‘get back to’ nature seems to cause issues with the natural order. In this way, Borealis reveals the fragility of nature. And how man’s ignorance can cause damage, whether or not its intended. (Having said this though, it’s important to note that the film ends on a message of hope. That things can heal if man takes responsibility for their actions.)
Borealis‘ interest is in the larger relationship between man and nature. It is an informative piece that explores what happens when man interrupts creation. McMahon shoots his film beautifully. There’s a mesmerizing quality to the footage that showcase inter-specie relationships. Ones that exist within the natural community to both maintain and further create its beauty. Most importantly, however, it also serves as a reminder. That we’re insignificant at the feet of the world around us.