THE WHITE DIAMOND
(directed by Warner Herzog, 2014)
**** (out of 5)
> This somewhat wonky science documentary from the great Werner Herzog was spectacularly redeemed by some of the most jaw-droppingly stunning nature photography I have ever seen- and that’s saying a lot!
. It’s the story of an obsessed man (Herzog’s stock in trade), trying to design and launch the world’s smallest, most maneuverable dirigible, for use in studying the under-explored canopy of the tropical rainforest. It’s the only way to get close enough and quiet enough without disrupting the natural order scientists are trying to observe. He is haunted by the memory of a fatal accident he feels responsible for in the early testing phase- yet still seems so eager to get his aircraft aloft that he is still willing to cut corners in a dangerous haste to succeed. The aerial photography is intoxicating, and as a portrait of ingenuity and vision, it is inspiring.
. The wide-angle close ups of monitor lizards and similar exotic tropical creatures slithering past the camera are so otherworldly they look like something from the ALIEN franchise! We are transported to one of the world’s longest waterfalls in Guyana and mesmerized by the stunning vision of countless multitudes of swarming swifts swirling in the sky and then suddenly swooping down to their mysterious unseen home in the hidden cave behind the waterfall- a place of local legend that no living man had ever seen… until a photographer is sent repelling down to reveal the hidden world beneath! But the natural secret remains a secret, when Herzog realizes that to show the footage would be to destroy centuries of local story- effectively eradicating an integral part of the native population’s cultural identity.
> It’s a tease, but a certain sign of remarkable integrity, leaving us to wonder if, (as Herzog himself might say, in a typically droll voice-over), there really are giant immortal snakes back there behind that roaring wall of brown water, protecting the hidden lair of the swirling swifts… Awesomeness itself.
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