‘Human’ Review

A resounding celebration of not just people, but life.

The film Human draws audiences together, inspiring awe and passion for humanity.

The first interview is harrowing. He’s just a typical looking guy, telling us how he understands love. Slowly, as his story progresses, the various complexities and paradoxes of his life emerge. The person who loves him the most is the person who he’s hurt the worst. It doesn’t make sense to him, or to us. But it’s not really supposed to make sense. It’s just the facts.

By the end of the 90-minute film, volume one of three, the entire audience was in a daze. The magnitude of the experiences just dropped on us was overwhelming. It was severe. Any film which affects somebody so intensely, let alone a group, must be in someway exceptional.

Directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Human is unlike any documentary I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t have a thesis, or a defined goal, or really any objective beyond simply existing. This is both the film’s strength and weakness. It’s a strength because you get out what you put in: if you’re invested, if you want to sit and experience the film, you’ll be profoundly touched. It’s a weakness for the same reason: if you’re closed off, if you don’t want to be there, I imagine it’ll be incredibly boring. There’s no attempt made to deviate from the constant awe present throughout the work.

Human is a documentary made up only of interviews with average people from around the globe. The film is essentially a meditation on what it means to be a member of this species. It starts out fairly broad. We don’t hear the prompts, but for a while the answers are about love. Next, they are about work. Economics. Power. A few are intense and a few are funny. A few are sad. All are captivating.

The interviews are interspersed with long contemplative shots of the world around us; humans aren’t always in these shots, but sometimes they are. What is common throughout each shot, and this includes the interviews, is that they are achingly beautiful. Arthus-Bertrand clearly has a passion for his work, as every frame exudes a certain adoration of its subjects. Human is, put simply, spectacular.

The film is paced quite well. I never felt that an interview was overstaying its welcome. Luckily, even if you do feel that way, it won’t be a big deal because most of them are only a few minutes long, at the most.

If I can level one genuine, if minor, criticism of the film, it’s the captions. It becomes clear the few times that English speakers are interviewed that the captions which we rely on if we don’t speak the language are imperfect. They’re not necessarily inaccurate, but there are definitely some meanings which slip away from them. This lead me to wonder how effective the captions were all the time. What words were said that I missed? What meanings were skewed? It’s strange that in a film that tries so hard to mitigate the creator’s presence, something so simple as the captions would be goofed. But it’s a small price to pay, really. The work is excellent, free, and on Youtube. You should certainly check it out. You’ve got nothing to lose.

I saw Human at a screening put on by Amnesty International Mount Allison. Check them out on Facebook!

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