The BackShop Journal

A Gallery of Thoughts on Arts, Culture and Orthodox Christian Spirituality

Ancient Forest (Lithuania, 2017)

An old-growth forest (also called primary forest, virgin forest, primeval forest, late seral forest and in British English ancient woodland) is a forest that has attained great age without significant disturbance and therefore exhibits unique ecological features and a great biodiversity of its ecosystem. In Europe, less  than three percent of all the wooded area belongs to this category. Lithuania is one of the few European countries that actually has some of these old-growth forests, but they are rapidly decreasing.

The 85-minute documentary film Ancient Forest, shot and directed by Mindaugas Survila, is a unique creation that tries to depict the beauty of untouched nature. Without a voiceover, without music, it is a work of art that relies solely on photography and the original sounds of the forests. Dozens of microphones have been placed around the spot chosen for filming, and the amplified sounds of snorting, growling, screeching and squeaking occasionally cause awe and even trepidation.

The effort and patience invested in shooting the scene with two male wood grouses first sizing one other up, and then crossing their beaks in a fight to death, for example, or a snake following and hypnotising a mouse, or even a slow motion of various types of beetles flying around, bumping into each other and gorging on a huge flower is truly impressive. Survila once spent three hours in a treetop waiting for owl chicks to jump out of their nest for the first time. He shot the scene, but it didn't make the final cut because he had to choose a more modern technique.

If this film had been made twenty years, before the appearance of Youtube with a multitude of amazing animal footage, it would be a true delight. If it had used music or a story, perhaps it would have provided a more complete experience. Even as it is, the film is a captivating celebration of animal diversity and pristine nature and at times a stunning combination of authentic image and sound.

Svetozar Postic

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