Review by Sean Boelman
Earth, directed by Nikolaus Geyrhalter, is a new environmental documentary arriving just in time for Earth Day. However, it is not your typical nature doc, instead taking a much more poetic and reflective approach to the issues that plague our world, its ecosystem, and the people that call it home.
The film takes a look at different people across the world as they change the shape of the Earth with machinery, whether to mine, build, or for other purposes, and how it affects the world. Although there are plenty of movies about the impact the mining industry has on the environment, none has been quite as meditative as Geyrhalter’s.
In the film, Geyrhalter takes a look at the mining practices at various sites around the world. Yet this isn’t an exposé, but instead a visual essay that shows the processes and their immediate visible consequences. The fact that there is no journalistic aspect to this movie allows it to stand out as more thought-provoking than most works of activism.
The main method through which Geyrhalter delivers context for the images he presents is interviews with the employees at the mines and worksites he is documenting. Some of these are definitely more insightful than others, a few simply discussing the ins and outs of their daily routine but others discussing the true implications of their work.
What is most interesting about the films, though, is the range of perspectives among the interviewees. Some recognize the potential harm they are causing but continue to do their jobs because it is what has to be done for them to make ends meet, whereas others are more proud of literally “moving mountains”.
Geyrhalter’s main point with this movie does not seem to be to outright condemn these companies that are altering the planet, but rather, to bring a greater sense of collective consciousness and understanding. Some of these things being shown are necessary evils, but society needs to be aware of the impact we are having on the world and take steps to remediate it.
Admittedly, the film may not be as readily accessible to audiences as it needs to be to get its message across because of its relatively lengthy runtime. Although all of the interviews are interesting, Geyrhalter could have communicated his point just as easily in ninety minutes as he did in almost two hours, making the movie a bit more palatable.
Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s Earth is a beautiful and thoughtful documentary, and while its message doesn’t go much deeper than the surface, it can start a very important conversation. This is certainly a worthy watch for this Earth Day.
Earth is now streaming in partnership with indie theaters. A list of participating locations can be found here.