Thursday, May 25, 2006

Burden of Turtles


The Chances of The World Changing [Eric Daniel Metzgar, USA, 99min.]

"Lowell Freeman looks after his plants in giant space greenhouses. Back on earth, all the trees have long vanished, so Lowell puts a lot of heart into his work. When orders from earth are received to destroy the greenhouses, Lowell can't go through with it... so he makes other arrangements."

That's the plot summary of Silent Running, the 1972 Douglas Trumbull film, but it could almost be the summary of The Chances of The World Changing. Richard Ogust loves turtles. He saves them from extinction. Mainly rare species from Southeast Asia where they are seen as a slow moving lunch. Over a period of years he has rescued and conserved hundreds of turtles. Richard also happens to be a writer and not a professional conservationist. He receives no financial or institutional support for his efforts and keeps the turtles privately. 1,200 of them. In an apartment. In New York City. When he is eventually evicted [the neighbors complained] he moves the turtles and himself to a warehouse in NJ. This is the first crisis in the film. Others follow. With dwindling financial resources and only a few friends to help, Richard struggles under the responsibility of trying to create a place for something for which the world is, at best, seemingly indifferent.

If man is the only animal worth studying, then perhaps it is because man is the only animal capable of making moral choices about his environment. One can surely shrug, in a fatalistic way, that given the world as it is, such pursuits are absurd and quixotic. After all, who the hell asked him to save the goddamned turtles? However, one doesn't have to be Camus to see that there might be some ennobling sense, however absurd, that the purpose of such a cause brings. After all, in a personal way, everything we hold dear will someday be extinguished. Why bother loving anything when each of us will ultimately vanish as surely as the Dodo?
Although the film never states it, it is possible to see Ogust as a bit more fool than holy. Given the scientific value of his collection, it is odd that he never receives the support or assistance of an official body. But taking at the film at face value, he appears as heroic as any Herzog subject.
"When one is fraught with immeasurable responsibility, an excess of strength, not gloom, powers the day. And that strength, again and again, in the face of all obstacles, is what we filmed." Despite the affirmation of this director's statement The Chances of The World Changing is about as cheerful as Diary of A Country Priest, but if the film doesn't provide much uplift, it surely suceeds as a portrait of faith bordering on the infinite. Bresson would understand.
6.14, Broadway Performance Hall, 4:00pm
6.17, Broadway Performance Hall, 4:30pm

1 comment:

  1. Charles Mudede would, too (understand, that is).