What to do while watching:
What to eat while watching:
The most striking aspect of this documentary is the lack of the human voice. Not one word is uttered in relation to the subject of the film Kestrel's Eye. The only human voices are heard filtered up from street level to a kestrel nest in the old church tower in a small Swedish town. The entire film is shot from a bird's eye view. When we watch the kestrels (European falcons) who "star" in this documentary, we are seeing them up close in their own habitat.
It would seem that director Mikael Kristersson hid several cameras in and around the old steeple, for he manages to capture the birds in their most natural states. The film depicts the kestrel family through an entire year. We seem them hunting in summer, nesting in fall, hatching in winter and emerging in spring. The intimate nest-cam tracks the progress of six eggs changing into tiny kestrel hatchlings and those hatchlings into young adult birds. We also get good close-ups of the hunting kestrels in flight, a nice accomplishment by the camerapersons. What we don't get are a lot of facts about what the kestrels are doing. If you don't know that kestrels see certain rodent leavings in prismatic color, this film won't tell you that. (I don't recall how that fact got into my own head.)
We watch the kestrels stand on the sconces and turrets of the old stone church to skin a garter snake or field mouse for supper. Without human commentary, we are left to make our own associations, and I was struck by how closely the ordered life of the kestrels parallels my human habits. Filial roles, for example, are distinctly distributed between the male and female bird, and the distribution seems equitable. If their filial bond is unrecognizable to the human eye as affection per se, it is nevertheless a distinct bond. The human mind takes flights into what the meaning of avian love might be, watching this film.
Another aspect of this film that blows my mind is the evidence that life in and of itself has innate humor. The kestrels have nested in a church steeple, and every once in a while, the film includes a segment with backing vocals by a gospel choir. The sound is muted but soaring, and the kestrels, in their aerie, bounce up and down to the music. A parade goes by on the street below, and the birds seem genuinely entertained by it. That feeling is my own, not some narrator's.
I found myself quite surprised that I could be fascinated by birdwatching for 90 minutes, but fascinated I was. And on top of the subject matter being interesting, I am in deep awe of these filmmakers for pioneering toward simplicity: this film does not intrude with human voices or subtitles. The language of the visual is universal. There is no filmmaker ego present. Bravo, bravo!
©1999 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights happily reserved.