Filmmaker Robin Petré grants audiences a bird’s-eye view in “From the Wild Sea,” which plays next week’s True/False Film Fest. She also offers moviegoers a seal’s-eye view. And a whale’s-eye view — as well as the perspective of a dolphin.

"There’s this continuous gaze, back and forth in the film" between her camera and these animals, delivered from danger by rescue volunteers, the Danish director said.

That gaze, as Petré captures and creates it, resembles her own longer look at nature, one that informs even her earliest memories.

Petré grew up surveying the lush hills of Mols Bjerge National Park, the unburdened spirit of the landscape soaking her every sight. The place's features — and especially its creatures — pulled Petré with a magnet's force.

"I loved animals — almost obsessively. I still do ... I never grew out of it," she said.

The sweeping song of nature met its minor-key match in messages sounded out by Petré's teachers. Trying to keep pace with worrying shifts in the environment, Danish educators foregrounded global concerns. With her peers, Petré learned "the climate crisis was going to be the crisis of my lifetime."

These experiences didn't immediately coalesce once Petré picked up a camera. After earning a master's degree through Doc Nomads, a wayfaring film program which traces lines on the European map, Petré tried making films in and about cities. But her own wild nature protested.

"My films are very much about ambience, the feeling of a place. That comes so easily to me," she said of what she's learned. "... I don’t have to think about it. That’s the beauty of it."

"From the Wild Sea" applies that aesthetic in surprising, compelling ways. The film is all about perspective — even as the filmmaker labored to strip the project of her own.

Petré rejects the label "activist," aiming to never approach a story with a determined narrative arc. Fulfilling her own creative desires demands both patience and innovation.

Concerned with the how and how much of human interference with the natural world, Petré focused her boundless attention on marine rescue efforts in England, Ireland and the Netherlands. Rather than fill the frame with people and their musings on the animal kingdom, Petré turned the tables.

"From the Wild Sea" intends to ground its viewers in animal perceptions of their own plight and supposed salvation. This means subtracting the expected elements of documentary. No talking heads or music. Whatever dialogue breaks through is heard as the animals hear it — in strange, soft mutterings.

The result, Petré said, is a film that is often absurd and disorienting — but also proves playful. "From the Wild Sea" invites viewers into the climate conversation in a more sublime way, one which transcends talking points and the typical rhythms of talking past each other.

To elevate experiences over messaging, and the senses above our existing sensibilities, Petré tuned to her surroundings and practiced uncommon patience. Long takes, some of which last several minutes, acclimate the viewer to another aspect of the world they live in. Petré confessed to "cut anxiety," worrying that revelations would come the moment she turned away.

For the filmmaker, "From the Wild Sea" represents a seesaw ride, both suppressing and indulging her own intuition. Because of her upbringing, reading an animal’s emotions and physical posture comes relatively easily; translating that reading to the screen, and doing so while acknowledging the effect of her own human touch, proved more puzzling.

Even with its inverted gaze, "From the Wild Sea" exists as a film about human nature, Petré said. Achieving some degree of animal understanding, Petré raises a mirror to our faces, asking us to examine them for lines of ignorance and hope.

Petré's view has changed in more than one way. She's watched the hills of her childhood slowly straighten out, making room for monoculture.

"I feel like all these changes have left less space for nature to just exist on its own terms," she said.

And a romantic's view of the sea is hard to hold when she sees human handprints on the harbors near her current Copenhagen home.

"The problems have moved so much closer to me. They’re right outside my window," she said.

But placing herself at other outposts and looking from other perspectives allows Petré to see so many of the angles. In a way, the filmmaker takes everyone's side — the animals, the volunteers, even the viewers — as long as we all pull together to leave the world and its wildlife better than we found it.

"You’re rooting for everybody in the film to succeed, right?" she said.

"From the Wild Sea" plays at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. For more information, visit www.truefalse.org.

adanielsen@columbiatribune.com

573-815-1731

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: True/False filmmaker steps into the 'Wild' to share unusual perspective


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