Microcosmos Movie Review

Kristin Scott Thomas Alerts
A welcome trend in recent moviegoing is the increased willingness of audiences to spend time in the company of documentaries. The past couple of years have seen movies such as Bowling for Columbine, Spellbound, Bus 174, Capturing the Friedmans, and Winged Migration holding their relative own at the box office. Since this hasn't always been the case, fans of the last title -- the breathtakingly photographed nature documentary -- are directed to the new DVD release of a little treasure from the same producers that they might have missed: 1996's outstanding Microcosmos.

Its subject, at first glance, is one of the ickiest imaginable: bugs. Given this reviewer's uneasy relationship with the lifeform (grasshoppers in particular freak me out completely), no one could have convinced me that I would leave a documentary about the day-to-day lives of insects in anything but a state of sustained panic. And yet Microcosmos remains among my very favorite nature documentaries or, for that matter, documentaries of any kind.

Microcosmos does more than dryly chronicle, say, the lifespan of the carpenter ant. Its opening narration (the only words we hear until the ending) invites us into a French meadow, and the filmmakers then employ jaw-dropping visuals to silently convey not just the activities of the many insects they study, but also the dizzyingly foreign world in which they live. Here raindrops fall like missile strikes, predator insects (and in one unforgettable sequence a pheasant) tower overhead like Mothra over Japan, and the whole blue sky opens up above just three or four inches above the ground. This meadow is a labyrinth at ground level, packed with as much activity as any city, and varied beyond belief in its population. Smart editing and heightened sound complete the otherworldly feel of this parallel reality teeming below the human knee.

Microcosmos received some flak from critics and documentarians when released on a technicality: the situations it records were sometimes orchestrated for the camera -- two insects, for instance, may have been placed in proximity to one another and then allowed to react as they normally would -- and its integrity as a documentary thus challenged. My advice is not to worry about it. The material presented here is so compelling and so true to the natural processes it records that it's beside the point to wonder if the filmmakers waited for nature to take its course or sped up the proceedings a little. The joy of watching Microcosmos has less to do with the science of the thing and much more with the fascinating, intricate world of the insects themselves.

Aka Microcosmos: Le peuple de l'herbe.

How's it hangin?

Cast & Crew

Director : , Marie Pérennou

Kristin Scott Thomas Alerts


Microcosmos Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: G, 1996


More Kristin Scott Thomas

My Old Lady Movie Review

Every threat of sentimentality and melodrama is averted by a seriously strong cast working from a snappy script. It may be warm and gentle, but...

Kristin Scott Thomas to Play The Queen in Revival of 'The Audience'

Kristin Scott Thomas has been confirmed to play The Queen in a revival of Peter Morgan's classic stage play The Audience. The Oscar-nominated actress, 54...

My Old Lady - Trailer Trailer

Mathias (Kevin Kline) is penniless and pretty down on his luck in New York despite having come from a wealthy family. In what seems like...

Before the Winter Chill Movie Review

Reuniting with filmmaker Philippe Claudel (I've Loved You So Long), Kristin Scott Thomas delivers yet another brittle, understated performance as a woman who isn't always...


The Invisible Woman Movie Review

A fascinating true story becomes a deeply repressed movie in the hands of writer Morgan (The Iron Lady) and actor-director Fiennes. It looks and feels...

The Invisible Woman Trailer

At the height of his career, Charles Dickens finds himself embroiled in one of the biggest personal struggles of his life. While working on a...

Looking For Hortense Trailer

Damien Hauer is a professor of Chinese civilization whose life with his stage director girlfriend Iva Delusi has become rather stagnant and miserable. Things get...

"The Invisible Woman" - Ralph Fiennes' Latest Period Drama Explores The Secret Life Of Charles Dickens [Trailer + Stills]

This year sees the release of one of Ralph Fiennes’ most highly anticipated works, The Invisible Woman, based on the dramatic and secretive personal life...