Spectacular Film Shows Europe Used to be Free, Wild And Dangerous

Europe may be better known for its many cities these days, but its still harbours the odd stretch of primitive wilderness.

A new innovative documentary explores these ancient sites to travel 12,000 years back through time to a continent waking up from the last ice age – before modern humans, and problems like man-made climate change.

Whether you spend most of your time in an office, a workshop or laboratory – we can all do with a little reminder of planet Earth’s natural beauty. If you can’t step out into it yourself, the cutting-edge cinematography and beautiful narration of silver-haired (you’ve got competition, David Attenborough!) French filmmaker Jacques Perrin might be the next best thing.

The film tells “a story of how humanity, wild animals and plants have shared our continent (…) since the end of the ice age ushered in the golden period of Europe’s vast forests and their diverse seasons,” according to a magazine published by the EU’s environment department.

The interactive Natura 2000 map. Photo: European Commission
Interactive Natura 2000 map. Photo: European Commission

The French-German collaboration titled Les Saisons hit cinemas in France in January, and has since appeared in movie theatres around Europe.

It was filmed in Natura 2000, the world’s largest network of protected areas. It stretches across all of the EU’s 28 member states and offers a haven to Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats. An interactive map let’s you explore all the sites online.

New Style of Filming

“In some of the sites we found primitive forests, as they were 7000 years ago,” Jacques Perrin, told the EU magazine, “That was crucial for us. The environment allowed us to travel through time. Telling the story was most important.”

Back in 2001, the documentary-maker already pioneered a dynamic new style of filming which saw cameras soaring alongside birds. “For the first time in human history, the audience flew with the birds,” Perrin told the EU magazine, which also knows that the film-crew lived with the wild animals to gain their confidence. The documentary makers were then able to capture close-up images of the creatures, enabling the audience to see life “almost through their eyes.”

Completed in just 18 months, filming took place across seven European countries and features the lives of 28 different mammals and 31 bird species.

How to Watch

You’d like to watch this documentary with its wild animals ranging from bison, wolves, reindeer and bears to harvest mice, marmots, owls and vultures somewhere online? Well, we’ve come a long way since Europe had no borders 12,000 years ago…

The European Commission has said it’s time for “tearing down regulatory walls and moving from 28 national markets to a single one,” but while we wait for 28 ministers to agree on a digital single market, here’s something to get you started:

  • Les Saisons in its original French is now available on DVD, including on Amazon France .
  • Starting in August 2016, you will also be able to stream it in German on Amazon Germany.

You can help out by letting us know in the comments if you find Les Saisons on a streaming service like Netflix in any particular country, if you know where else it’s available digitally or if you know of different language versions.

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