If you’re anything like me, you’re often overwhelmed by the deluge of climate change science the media throws at us. Depending on who you ask, we’re either close to or already crossed an ecological tipping point. Crossing this point means life as we know it crumbles away until we’re left fighting for survival in a Mad Max: Fury Road style wasteland. Well, fear not dear reader. Metamorphosis, a new documentary by co-directors, Nova Ami and Velcrow Ripper, offers room for hope. Ami and Ripper’s film makes a bold declaration that we won’t only survive what’s next, we can thrive in it.
Metamorphosis travels all around the planet to offer examples of humanity’s destructive impact on the planet as well as how we can change our ways. The film goes to Venice, Italy, where the Venetian population has plummeted in recent years due to the rising tides. Metamorphosis also highlights examples of adaptation in nature to help us wrap our minds around our own potential for change. Prepare for lots of butterfly analogies.
From beginning to end, Metamorphosis features loads of stunning shots. Credit goes out to Ripper who also serves as the film’s cinematographer. This documentary spans the globe and captures shots using an array of techniques. There’s macro shots, telephoto shots, slow motion, time lapse, shots from drones, and underwater shots. I’m sure I’m still leaving some out. If you love flipping through the pages of National Geographic (or scrolling through their Instagram feed) there’s plenty of visual treats. But what good is the world’s greatest cinematographer without something worth shooting? Metamorphosis features dazzling images of wildlife, sure. What sticks with me is the footage of human habitats captured from so high up it feels like staring at an ant farm.
It’s the footage of chaos and destruction, though, that puts a stranglehold on your attention. In one segment, a forest fire lays waste to a housing community. Never-ending plumes of black smoke smother the entire horizon and all that’s visible are the searing flames rising from burning houses. The scene looks like a more terrifying version of Lord of the Rings’ Mordor. Later, a family describes the damage done to their home during the blaze. The camera rises farther and farther up until we see them standing on the scorched remains of what used to be their home.
Another notable moment involves a man who uses art to replace the ocean’s deteriorating coral reefs. He crafts life-size human sculptures that are both beautiful and haunting, which he places on the ocean floor. His work is a type of symbiosis; he scratches a creative itch while replenishing the ocean’s ecosystem. As the sculptures sit underwater, aquatic lifeforms begin latching on creating odd shapes and surprising biological patterns. Looking at the marine life overtaking the human forms had the same beautiful/creepy sensation as the hybrid life inside the shimmer in Alex Garland’s Annihilation.
Most of us aren’t super wealthy. We do the best we can to get by without causing any problems. We don’t have the time, energy, or the cash flow to eat healthily, live clean, and buy the eco-friendliest products. Even well-intention people don’t have time to figure out how buying almond milk affects southern Californian farms in 2048. And it’s our collective apathetic mentality that put us in this environmental mess. Metamorphosis shows us that there is no band-aid solution for all that ails our planet. Our best shot at survival is a gradual transition towards looking at the world from a different perspective. Ami and Ripper suggest a series of sustainable ways to live that replenish the earth as well as our spirits.