Friday, May 21, 2021

"The Hunt" is what life is all about.

As civilized beings we too often fancy ourselves removed from the concerns of nature.  That is of course an illusion.  "The Hunt" narrated by the indomitable David Attenborough who does not paint a picture of  idyllic nature, does provides us with the reality which has its own beauty. 

 I have watched a few films on industrial food manufacturing (i.e. slaughterhouses) that encourage vegetarianism, but here is a slight mood alteration watching this six hour set of stories.  Nature is brutal, with killing normal.  Lots of killing is depicted, but also escapes.  Most targets survive an initial assault, but that also encourages sympathy for the predators who will not survive if they are not able to kill for their food.

 Several years ago I met Bob Morley who married into the family and was an avid hunter and was concerned over what he called the "Bambi Syndrome."  He felt city people had become unaware of the realities of life. 

An underlying reality is that life feeds on life.  Death is part of life.  "The Hunt" shows predators versus prey animals.  They are held in balance.  Prey animals have evolved to survive while predators have evolved to also survive.  One factor that is repeated often is escapes.  Most attempts to kill fail.  For those predators who fail there is death by either starvation or weakening to the point of being prey themselves. 

Insects (and other invertebrates) have their own wars for survival.  They tend to lay a lot of eggs.  They are killed by birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.  The killing is by deception, quickness, sticky tongues, poisons and traps.  Spiders are very remarkable in building webs sometimes across streams.   Team work is well developed by red ants who act like an army.

Life began in water.  As they say the big fish eat the small fish.  Killer whales work in teams and are able to kill not only fish, but mammals and birds.  The film shows one octopus who attacks on land by using rock ponds at certain times of year.

It is often said that evolution was the survival of the fittest, often implying the strongest individuals.  No quarrel, but would point out that animals and humans who learned to co-operate did better.  Some good examples in this series were wolves, dolphins, wild dogs and crocodiles. They all were able to take down larger prey, but working as a team was the key.

The last episode focused on conservation efforts.  Predators are more difficult to attract sympathy, but play a necessary role in balancing nature.  India noticed tigers disappearing and decided to pay rural dwellers to move out so tigers can expand.   Urbanization squeezes out natural animal habitat.  Polar bears do much of their hunting on ice and have been suffering.  Harpy eagles in South America forced to adapt to forests being cut down now seek ground animals.  Blue whales have been killed by ocean liners and efforts have been made to adjust navigating patterns.

Huw Cordey was the series producer and has been involved in other major nature programs such as, "Our Planet" (2019), Dancing with the Birds" (2019) and "A Perfect Planet" (2021).

Steven Price wrote the music.  He had won an Oscar for "Gravity" (2013).  He composed for "Our Planet" (2019) and "David Attenborough:  A Life on Our Planet" (2020)

David Attenborough, younger brother of Lord Richard Attenborough, studied science at Cambridge.  In 1954 bean "Zoo Quest" series with the BBC.  In 1964 he became a controller and amonsgt others things brought "Monty Python's Flying Circus"  He spent 8 years behind a desk, but by 1979 he wrote and presented " Life on Earth," the most ambitious and later became part of a trilogy.   As a narrator David is considered credible (he does not do commercials) and reassuring.  Knighted in 1985.

Technical challenges abound, particularly as they sought after rarely, if ever seen before shots.  The close-ups are stunning.  Most of the crew had worked with wildlife before and were able to call upon other experts to help sort unpredictable movements of animal.  To get some of the good shots required hours and days of patience.  First time a blue whale, largest animal in existence filmed under water.  A few of the cinematographers were Sophie Darlington Jamie McPherson, John Aitchison, Doug Anderson and Mark Deeble.

What is life?  A hard to understand question, but one thing learned from this series is that life feeds on death.  A hard notion to accept and one that most of us are insulated from.   David Attenborough and the crew help us to accept the reality of nature that we are all a part of.

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