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The Green Life: Movie Review Friday: Journey of the Universe

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August 12, 2011

Movie Review Friday: Journey of the Universe

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week we review a film with an environmental theme. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a short review and look for it in the next Movie Review Friday.

Journey of the Universe (2011)

Available on DVD


Journey of the Universe may take the viewer on a walk around the Greek island of Samos but, in the imagination of narrator Brian Thomas Swimme, the film runs more than just this world. From the big bang to cell evolution, he traces life's development, commencing with the “great flaring forth.”

Born from the minds of Swimme, a professor of evolutionary philosophy, and Mary Evelyn Tucker, a professor of environmental studies and divinity, the film is an exercise in admiration and education — but never dogma.

Swimme’s enthusiasm, his full-moon smile and rolling voice, propel the story through vast time. The screen alternates between his expressions and beautiful graphics of cosmic generation. He uses the fortress on Samos to represent cellular membranes and illustrate life's basic fragility. Unstated is the threat of what will happen if we break down those protective walls or change the circumstances that have allowed us to live and breathe.

The analogy of a day in Samos to the life of the universe is clear enough, but Journey’s treasure lies in its revealing of more subtle patterns in the stitching of growing life. These patterns are only able to be seen by understanding the complex science and then by stepping back to gaze at the array of processes, which Swimme and Tucker translate to viewers via art.

The movie is ambitious and does an admirable job of breaking scientific ideas into clear phrases and digestible imagery. But it doesn't wholly capture the majesty of nature that Swimme and Tucker so obviously love. So while this film is a good tutorial in the basic science of infinity and beyond, for a reminder of why you want to understand your planet, look outdoors as always.

Journey’s own origin as a teaching tool (it's part of a larger educational project) never leaves the film, so it's as good for kids as it is for curious adults.

--Juliana Hanle


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