Anthony Armentano, Global Animal
Originally released in France under the title Pollen in 2011, Disneynature’s Wings of Life has finally made it to worldwide audiences. Much like the 2012 film Chimpanzee, Wings of Life is short, but particularly sweet. Coming in at only 77 minutes, the documentary uses its time proficiently in order to deliver its increasingly important message. The opening title card of the film reads: “Life depends on little things we take for granted,” a theme that rests at the core of Wings of Life. Focusing on the vital relationship between flowers, and the animals that interact with them, the documentary explores a complex world often taken for granted.
Academy Award winning actress Meryl Streep narrates Wings of Life from the point of view of the world’s various flower populations, once again showing audiences that she can, in fact, play anything. The documentary continuously emphasizes illusion and the hidden beauty of nature, a key part of what director Louie Schwartzberg hopes people take away from his film. Schwartzberg has said, “I positioned the story from the point of view of flowers and I believe that beauty is a tool for survival in nature, that it’ll protect, and that’s what I’m hoping viewers and specifically kids will get.”
A variety of seemingly minute communities are explored, ranging from the rainforests of Panama, to the farm fields of the Midwestern United States. Wings of Life points out that flowers serve as the foundation of the majority of ecosystems on the planet, and as much as the flowers need the animals, the animals need the flowers. At one instance, the film shows male orchid bees in Panama who use fluids from the native bucket orchids, in order to attract female bees. In turn the bucket orchids attach pollen to the male bees, and the bees spread the seed to other bucket orchids. Similarly intricate relationships between female desert bats with cacti, and monarch butterflies with milkweed, are also explored.
Not only does Wings of Life do a great job of delving into a number of discreet communities, but it also provides an artistic sense of nature through its incredible cinematography. Cameras capture entire lifecycles within the film, presenting unique perspectives only possible through the use of time-lapse and high-speed cinematography. The ability to capture hummingbirds mid-flight, and bumblebee hives up close, supports the mystery behind these little communities. Schwartzberg hits his mark precisely; Wings of Life is certainly beautiful, in regards to both its aesthetic, and the information that is presented on the covered ecosystems.
The last few minutes of the film call on humanity to be cautious with the increasing disappearance of bumblebees, and the destruction of plant based ecosystems, like the rainforests. It warns that deforestation will lead to the disappearance of the animals that rely on these flowers, as well as the produce that humans rely on to survive. Wings of Life will open your eyes to hidden communities tied directly to the vitality of our own, and don’t be surprised if the film gets you to start your own garden.
We give Wings of Life a 4 out of 5 paw rating!
Watch the full trailer below.