Petropolis

"Excellent"

Petropolis Review


Sumptuous cinematography gives this documentary an artistic feel that makes it almost hypnotic as mainly aerial cameras explore the world's second biggest oil reserve. But even with minimal text, it still makes its point with elegant simplicity.

The Alberta tar sands hold so much oil that they have become the world's largest industrial, capital and energy project. And it could eventually become a mega-complex the size of England. But mining the valuable bitumen requires decimating a lush ancient forest and then creating vast lakes of toxic water in the process of separating sand from bitumen. We see all of this from above, gliding over the trees, water, fields and industrial works. Intriguingly, we never glimpse a single person on screen, only their impact on the environment.

And the audio track is a delicate mix of ambient sounds and minimalist music.

Filmmaker Mettler, who photographed the similar-style Manufactured Landscapes, lets the images speak for themselves, using captions to tell us what we're seeing and to give us nuggets of information. There's also some final voiceover narration that adds historical context in an almost poetic way. But this is never politicised at all; the information is clear and dispassionate, almost eerily matter-of-fact, and the cinematography is spectacular as it simply takes in what is there without making any commentary. Even images of an enormous dump-truck driving through a ravaged strip-mine take on an unexpected elegance.

Although we can hardly help but get the message.

As the film progresses, the scale of what we're seeing increases, and the sheer enormity of this project becomes deeply haunting, as does its potential expansion. Yet while it's impressive to see something that's being done on such a gigantic scale, we can't avoid the reality that this much devastation is truly horrific for the natural world. And the staggering scar in the landscape, created completely by humans, will not only never go away, but will continue to cause problems for the entire planet far into the future. And the clear, unvoiced question is this: are oil industry profits worth this level of destruction?



Petropolis

Facts and Figures

Genre: Documentaries

Run time: 17 mins

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Peter Mettler

Producer: Sandy Hunter, Laura Severinac

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