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Friday, July 29, 2011

movie night:: Microcosmos

Microcosmos (1996) is a French documentary illuminating the complex, elegant and mysterious lives of insects. Filmed using specially developed equipment and extreme close ups, as well as time lapse photography, Microcosmos is a visual feast for viewers. The minimal narration by Kristen Scott Thomas pulls the viewer in, and encourages concentrated looking: "To observe this world, you must fall silent now and listen to it's murmurs."

From a young age my kids sat spellbound by this magical film. The variety of insect activity captured is staggering; bees collecting nectar (while their backs are perfectly dusted with pollen), ants drinking aphid secretions, spiders catching prey and snails mating to opera. My favorite scene is of a water spider repeatedly going to the surface and pulling down air to create an oxygen chamber where he can eat his catch. Simply amazing!

I would recommend this movie for any age, unless your child would get upset watching one insect catch and eat another insect. My kids are fairly sensitive, but those types of scenes are handled in a matter-of-fact way so it does not upset them.

Have you seen this movie already? Did your family like it?
discussion questions
1. What part of the film was your favorite?
2. Which insect did you learn something new or surprising about?
3. How do you think the film makers captured this footage?
4. If you could be an insect which would you be? Why?

extension projects
-take a walk to look at real bugs up close (bring your magnifying glass and journal)
-draw insects and label their body parts
-tend an ant farm
-order praying mantis egg cases and hatch them
-order live lady bugs to release in your garden
-research and plant a butterfly habitat (observe the life cycle)
-visit a real insectarium (search for them here)
-call your local extension office for additional local resources
-check out the art of Jennifer Angus
-for fun, make this bug cake
-read Jean Henri Fabre, 19th century, self taught entomologist whose popular writing about the lives of insects is still highly readable today
-if you are in France, visit Micropolis, an interesting insect museum that was involved with Microcosmos.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation...I'll look for this. The shot of the snails alone has me intrigued.

  2. Have you seen the David Attenborough documentary about bugs? I think it might be called Life in the Undergrowth. Did I already ask you? It is SUPER good. :-)


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