Ice And The Sky reaction: Cannes 2015

Luc Jacquet’s nature documentary was the closing film of Cannes 2015. Here’s Jordan Farley’s reaction…

With the competition over and half of the attendees already jetting home, the closing film at Cannes has a habit of being a stinker. That wasn’t the case this year where Luc Jacquet’s gripping climate change doc Ice And The Sky (La Glace Et Le Ciel) provided a triumphant tale of human spirit and pioneering science for the festival to go out on.

Rather than a solemn, stat-filled lecture on global warming, Jacquet (who made March Of The Penguins in 2005) focuses on the life of trailblazing French glaciologist Claude Lorius whose (literally) ground-breaking research was instrumental in proving humanity’s connection to increased temperatures across the world. Utilising recreated footage from numerous polar expeditions since 1956, Ice And The Sky has a sense of adventure at its heart as Lorius and his colleagues take treacherous, month-long journeys to inhospitable bases where the secret of our effect on the planet remains hidden under miles of ice.

The bulk of the film is made up of this recreated footage, which is given a grainy Super 8 filter while Lorius’ story is narrated over the top in first-person. For the most part it works well, half-convincing you that what we’re seeing is the real deal, until Jacquet gives in to his cinematic urges and cuts to angles that shatter the illusion, or the occasionally overbearing music takes a turn for the saccharine.

Throughout, the film cuts back to Lorius in present day – a frail, 82-year-old man wandering around a series of evocative and striking polar landscapes. If you saw top Attenborough doc Frozen Planet you know what to expect, but it’s still stunning to see such sights on the big screen. From endless ice tunnels to apocalyptic burnt forests, Jacquet’s camera captures locations that look as alien as the landscapes in Interstellar.

As well as documenting a fascinating tale about human adversity in extraordinarily harsh environments Ice And The Sky is an important film given how little-known Lorius’ fascinating life story really is (his Wikipedia entry barely stretches to four lines). At one point Lorius laments that he sometimes has to “fight the feeling of having served no purpose”. It’s a heart-breaking revelation that gives the film’s ultimate message about the damage we’re doing to our planet a layer of pathos that any number of bar graphs and pie charts could not.

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