Consider two extreme adventures: attempting to summit the highest mountains in the world and canoeing leisurely down a placid river. “Adventuring” – “extreme adventuring” in slow motion across four seasons on the River Shannon … some may snicker at such an association.
Slow motion is a wonder well used in the film “On a River in Ireland.” Naturalist Collin Stafford Johnson invites us to a kind of stillness that ascends the fundamental sights and sounds of life. Director John Murray orchestrates who knows how much patience, time, and effort placing his cameras.
A bird, diving spear-like to the river bottom, wrangles a wriggling fish. A red squirrel leaps -- almost flies -- from tree to tree. A bat, in the life of night, scoops insects from the river surface.
Speeds vary in a dance of crafted cinematography and natural rhythms. A fish pounces on the right moment to fertilize eggs. A frog clings to a female, beating scrambling competitors to a mating ride. Birds by the thousands paint the sky with densely coordinated movement.
Johnson paddles quietly through dawns and reeds. Resonantly, he distinguishes bird calls and behaviors. He describes egrets coexisting with herons, egrets new to Ireland. In one of a few references to climate and habitat change, he reports movements north and west from what they were.
Whether you see it as an adventure or an expert window to nature, see “On a River in Ireland.”