Movies in Nature

Movies in Nature – The Appeal of Cinema in Wild Environments

No doubt you are reading me through a screen, be it your tablet, cell phone, or personal computer, but always in that virtual world without space or boundaries, so different from the rough nature I want to address today with some movies that I have found strictly relevant in this regard.

In the hectic tangle of long days between family or work commitments, everyone tries to find their own personal Nirvana to retreat to regenerate physically and spiritually when our mental batteries are in reserve.

Indeed, whatever your job and background, it’s hard to be genuinely in touch with nature in a technology-free environment. But what about those who live in this state perpetually and not just when they are on a break?

This is precisely what the stories in today’s films are about: characters in search of something that the more the so-called progress advances, the more we miss it terribly.

We are lulled by the thousands of conveniences of the modern world that certainly make life easier for us but also prevent us from living it fully.

Men and women who still struggle and dream of something different amid the general cynical denial that labels them as crazy and obsolete human ruins, only victims of nostalgia for a world that no longer is and can never be again.

Want to delve deeper into their stories? Well, make yourself comfortable then, nature has such patience and will wait for you without complaint.

Tracks (2013)

Tracks 2013 movie
Amazon Prime Video

Let’s start with a movie I guiltily forgot to add to my collection of Cinema in the Desert, probably the purest form of nature in that, as they say, all of us dust were and will be again someday.

But before that, we can also take some satisfaction out of ourselves, as is the case with young Robyn Davidson, a writer/traveler making an epic 1,700-mile journey from one end of Australia to the other.

Working humbly as a maid while learning the ins and outs of desert life from a camel herder, she gets screwed when after two years of hard work, the owner reneges on his promise and kicks her out without giving her anything.

But Robyn does not give up. After working on another ranch, she returns to the place where she was fired and finds a new owner who agrees to give her the compensation to which she was entitled.

At that point, she lacks only the money to buy supplies. Still, she finds it with the help of young Rick Smolan, a reporter for National Geographic, even if she finds the man irritating and disrespectful of Australian traditions. Yet, in the end, he will be the one waiting for her at the finish line as her one and only true friend.

Director John Curran sets the right slow pace by enhancing the genuine charm of leading lady Mia Wasikowska, along with Adam Driver, who interrupts this catharsis with nature from time to time, bringing some genuine fun and misunderstanding to a story that would otherwise have been overly serious.

In short, a movie that is a pure act of love for nature while also telling a bizarre true story that many will not know and from which there is much to admire and learn.

Captain Fantastic (2016)

Captain Fantastic 2016 movie
Amazon Prime Video

From the extremes of the Australian desert, we now move to the extremes of an alternative lifestyle choice, albeit in the heart of Washington’s forests.

Indeed, a stone’s throw from the U.S. capital state, we approach the bizarre members of the Cash family, who lead a peaceful, naturist existence far from any influence of capitalist society.

However, you should not think of them as savage Tarzan emulators. As the head of the family, Ben imparts a rigorous historical and political education to his children and physically trains them to hunt and survive in the woods.

Almost all of them are happy and content, except young teenager Bo, who, while loving his family, would understandably like to broaden his horizons and travel to discover the rest of the world.

Everything changes when, one day, they receive news of their mother’s death, convincing them to leave for New Mexico and reconcile with the hateful relatives on their mother’s side to celebrate the funeral.

As might be expected, the collision of such different worlds generates problems galore. Still, it also opens Ben’s children’s eyes about the little things (maybe even stupid, but fun) they have to give up on their hermit existence, further confirming Bo’s doubts that he is now at the end of his rope.

Unfortunately, from 2016 to date, Captain Fantastic remains the last movie in director Matt Ross‘s filmography as a scathing critique of American society (and beyond), with the fantastic Viggo Mortensen as its protagonist and total ruler of the scene.

A seemingly friendly and sociable warrior and philosopher father who perhaps imposes his thoughts too fiercely on the rest of the family.

In this movie, in reality, nature lies precisely in the freedom of each person to choose their own path in life, for better or worse.

Apostle (2018)

Apostle 2018 movie
Watch on Netflix

Now, we move to a fantasy story in which nature is not merely a backdrop to the adventure but an active protagonist.

It all takes place on a distant unknown island, where lives a sect of fanatics aimed at the worship of a goddess called “She,” the bringer of fertility to a land otherwise merely a wasteland of volcanic rocks.

But over time, the influence of “She” seems to fade, so the islanders’ crops dry up and fall apart without bearing any fruit.

Hunger leads them to blackmail, prompting the elderly leader Malcolm to kidnap Jennifer, a noble daughter of wealthy English patrons, demanding a rich ransom to free her.

This is where Thomas, Jennifer’s brother, who had abandoned and disowned the family, enters the scene; however, the family recruits him to infiltrate the cult and attempt a desperate rescue.

Thomas is welcomed to the island by posing as a would-be cult follower, discovering firsthand how true the mysterious “She” is and how far human greed can go to deface and exploit nature’s benevolence.

Directing what is one of Netflix’s best productions is young but already beloved director Gareth Evans, who in less than 10 years since his debut has already earned international respect with the muscular martial excesses of movies like Merantau and the two chapters of The Raid.

Evans changes genres by jumping into fantasy/psychological horror and casting Dan Stevens, an actor already famous for the successful superhero series Legion,” as the lead; here, he is in a more “human” role, where we can admire his acting even better.

For all those subscribers to the famous online streaming service, then, Apostle is an unmissable must-see dark fable with a moral lesson hidden under an admirable veneer of “historical horror” of yesteryear.

Hold the Dark (2018)

Hold the Dark 2018 movie
Watch on Netflix

Changing the setting and historical context completely, we stay with another movie (this time distributed only) streaming from Netflix.

We then find ourselves in the present day in the cold and remote forests of Alaska, where a small town is shocked by the miserable fate of three children kidnapped and killed by a pack of wolves.

To thwart the threat, Mrs. Medora Slone, mother of one of the little victims, hires former retired hunter Russell Core to flush out the pack and exterminate it.

Initially reluctant, Russell agrees despite the many suspicions hovering over Medora and her controversial husband Vernon, who is fighting in the distant U.S. military campaign in Iraq.

Indeed, many believe that the couple worships the ancient Wolf Cult and that they may be the culprits for the demise of these children, including their own son.

As Vernon returns from war only to begin another, Russell must reveal the murky secrets behind these heinous murders.

Once again, we have at the helm an unconventional genius like Jeremy Saulnier, who, after such excellent films as Blue Ruin and Green Room, confirms all his talent with a thriller as glacial as Alaska’s cold and ruthless nature.

A land where men are more savage and cruel than the animals themselves, as protagonist Jeffrey Wright, finally in a leading role after a life as a character actor, will discover to his cost.

Even more disturbing is the crazy lovers Alexander Skarsgård and Riley Keough, two more rising talents who, between recent movies like The Northman or The Lodge, really seem to never miss a beat.

True love is perhaps like nature itself; it is indifferent to the judgments and morals of others and even less willing to compromise toward the rules of a crumbling society.

Woman at War (2018)

Woman at War 2018 movie
Amazon Prime Video

Let’s wrap up this little journey of wild loneliness with a quirky movie somewhere between a black comedy and a civic engagement docudrama among the beautiful, unspoiled (well, not so unspoiled, as we shall see) landscapes in the bright spaces of Iceland‘s cold, lush wilderness.

Many citizens live happily in what they believe to be heaven on Earth, except for our protagonist, Halla, who can no longer stand the devastation and pollution of the powerful multinational Rio Tinto‘s many industrial facilities.

So this woman, behind the innocuous appearance of a teacher and director of the local choir, is actually an anonymous warrior who infiltrates this corporation’s machinery and power grid, sabotaging or destroying them under the battle name of “Electric Woman.”

As usual, public opinion splits between those who appreciate and support her exploits and others who would like to see her rot in jail.

Much more united, however, are Rio Tinto executives, hiring mercenaries to monitor the area subject to sabotage, checking these vast expanses of no-man’s lands with drones in hopes of flushing her out.

It becomes increasingly difficult for Halla to carry out her clandestine missions, fearing arrest, especially given the arrival of a Ukrainian child she is trying to foster.

As if that were not enough, the woman must also live with the nagging of her twin sister Ása, an aspiring guru who seems to care about nothing except an impending spiritual journey to the East, but we eventually discover she is not as stupid or selfish as she appeared.

Benedikt Erlingsson writes and directs a delightful all-female adventure, ranging between political activism and the personal drama of the lovely character played by the unknown but perfect Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir in the dual role of Halla and her twin sister Ása.

A conclusion that is perfect for the five movies I’m recommending today, each with a different perspective about the complex relationship and coexistence between the intricate world of nature and the even more tricky world of human relationships. What do you think? Is there still hope for the old Earth, or have we already crossed the point of no return?

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