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Ah well. I guess that’s just the nature of the age. And To the Arctic does contain moments of genuine cinematic spectacle, one of which remains stuck in my mind even after I've seen the brain-cleansing We Have a Pope, Life Without Principle, and The Trouble With Harry. To illustrate the effects of climate change on the arctic, the filmmakers present one of the region’s rapidly melting icebergs: taken from a moving plane, the shot passes a row of openings in the side of the berg, each one spouting a great fountain of melted ice. The series of waterfalls suggests a Berkeley-esque ordering of nature, one that God might have imagined had He been interested in geometry. Like Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary Manufactured Landscapes (a movie that’d look really good on an IMAX screen, come to think of it), this image proposes that the irreversible destruction of nature might at times be beautiful.
It's the sort of unspeakable thought that images can express in total innocence. Yet the makers of To the Arctic seem to feel guilty about the beauty they’ve captured, and they attempt to cover their bases by having the narrator (Meryl Streep, who likely recorded her lines on her way to the dry cleaner) feebly insist that we can all stop environmental devastation before it’s too late. I resent this recourse to good taste: with only 40 minutes to impress its audience, a film like this simply has no time to appeal to morality.