Live by Night
The key question behind Live by Night isn’t so much “Why did they bother?” as “What went wrong?”
"Arctic Tale" journeys to one of the most difficult places on earth for animals to make a living, and shows it growing even more unfriendly. The documentary studies polar bears and walruses in the Arctic, as global warming raises temperatures and changes the way they have done business since time immemorial.
Much of the footage is astonishing, considering that it was obtained at frigid temperatures, sometimes underwater, and usually within attacking distance of large and dangerous mammals. We follow two emblematic characters, Nanu, a newborn polar bear cub, and Seela, a newborn walrus. The infants venture out into their new world of blinding white and merciless cold, and learn to swim or climb onto solid footing, as the case may be. They also get lessons from their parents on stalking prey, defending themselves against predators, and presumably keeping one eye open while asleep.
The animals are composites of several different individuals, created in the editing room from footage shot over a period of 10 years, but the editing is so seamless that the illusion holds up. The purpose of the film, made by a team headed by the married couple of director Sarah Robertson and cinematographer Adam Ravetch, is not to enforce scholarly accuracy but to create a fable of birth, life and death at the edge of the world.
It is said that the landmark documentary "March of the Penguins" began life in France with a cute soundtrack on which the penguins voiced their thoughts. The magnificence of that film is explained in large part to Morgan Freeman's objective narration, which was content to describe a year in the lives of the penguins; the facts were so astonishing that no embroidery was necessary.