Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s Home is an urgent jeremiad decrying man’s plundering of the earth’s natural resources. Or so anyone who paid attention only to the film’s audio track would be led to believe. As mournful strings set the tone, narrator Glenn Close delivers a withering, if repetitive, account of humanity’s crimes against the planet, a list that includes factory farming, deforestation, and the building of megalopolises that require an ever-increasing supply of energy to power. But while Close’s testimony is sufficiently terrifying, moving toward an apocalyptic vision of climate-change catastrophe, the urgency of her tone is belied by the placidity of the film’s visuals. Capturing the earth’s rural and urban landscapes in a series of overhead shots taken across 54 countries, Arthus-Bertrand shoots everything with the same slightly bland, meticulously pretty kino-eye. The result is a leveling impulse that refuses to make an aesthetic distinction between uncontaminated nature (a hot spring turned a near-psychedelic aqua by its algae content), devastated landscapes (soil-eroded hills in Madagascar that look like raw meat), and the negative results of humankind’s actions on impoverished populations (aerial shots of teeming Lagos). With everything glimpsed at a comfortable overhead distance, our planet becomes so much eye candy for the Nat Geo set.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 2, 2011