Mankind's conflicted relation to nature is at the center of Robin Petré's long-form documentary debut 'From the Wild Sea', screening in competition in the Generation 14plus selection at this year's Berlinale.
Utilizing an observing and poetic style, the director depicts everyday life at a number of rescue facilities on the coastline of the British Isles as well as Holland. Good-willed marine animal rescue volunteers work tirelessly to save stranded whales and injured seals, as climate change fuels increasingly violent weather across the seas.
However, the main protagonists of the film are not the rescue workers trying to make a difference in a hopeless situation.
Rather, a large part of the film is dedicated to the animals that wash up on the shorelines with plastic in their stomachs and drenched in oil, just to be sent back out into the manmade dangers of the seas after a short rehabilitation process.
"I believe that in every human being there is both a constructive and destructive force. This ambivalence is at the core of what we aim to explore in the film. Our faltering relationship to nature, which we destroy with one hand and rebuild with the other," says Petré.
An unexpected mirror
Some of the film's most graphic scenes confront us with the way the rescue workers have to overpower the unsuspecting animals in an attempt to help them. The animals fight back, but are powerless to the sudden disruption of their existence.
"My intention as a filmmaker is to break down the barriers and eliminate the distance between my audience and the animals we meet on screen. To me, these animals are someone rather than something, and I aim to show them as such. That is, with the same respect and attention as everyone else appearing in the film," Petré elaborates.
On the film's many scenes from the animal's perspectives, she adds: "The purpose of these scenes is to create a connection between the audience and the animals represented on screen, and also to present us humans with an unexpected mirror on ourselves."
Petré hopes that the film will lead to an increased reflection on our co-existence with nature in a time where climate change is at a critical point.
"My goal is to shed a new light on human behaviour towards nature in the Anthropocene era and give us a captivating and unusual outside look at ourselves – for better or worse."
The troubled relationship between humans and nature is a recurring theme in the work of Petré. In 2016, she won the Silver Dove for an Outstanding Artistic Contribution at DOK Leipzig for her depiction of man's colonization of wild nature in the sensory short form documentary debut 'Pulse' about a deer farm in Hungary.
'From the Wild Sea' is produced by Malene Flindt Pedersen for Hansen & Pedersen with support from the Danish Film Institute's talent scheme New Danish Screen. DR is handling international sales.