From bison to bison. From mammoth to mammoth. Some notes on the film "Zimov's Hypothesis" by Denis Snegirev
Non-human: everything has gone, and it is clear, That life is simple. Silence comes again. The distant sickle of the rich Himalayas, Among the plains, I am Inseparable plain.
The film develops its storyline so that it is structured almost like a surreal narrative. Sergey Zimov, who appears as Zeus the Thunderer and starts talking about a time bomb, is straightforward enough to be associated with any of the gods of Olympus, punitive or merciful. He speaks of a potential explosion of the earth if global warming occurs. Zimov, doubting the project's success or playing with it, but asking the director if his son can participate in his global experiment saving the universe, creates an interesting plot arc in the film and unfolds the plot unexpectedly.
The Garden of Eden that Zimov tries to create is desacralized, as it consists of the notional impossibility of its existence. Coupled with the "collecting" of selected animals (all participants are cattle, born to be eaten or used for crops), it is the only plot material of Zimov's hypothesis. Here again, utopia comes to the fore, which director Denis Snegirev turns to and which, through specific filming (elements of anthropological cinema, shooting with drones, exploring the problems of place, participating in expeditions, defamiliarization, close-ups), gives the work new meaning: the viewers becomes both witnesses and participants in processes that happen outside the world - as if they are in some space above the world.
The story itself is, of course, relatively conventional: hermit ecologist Sergei Zimov tries to save the planet from the coming age of permafrost.
Jean-Claude Tanguy has a book on volcanoes in which he talks about how a volcano essentially holds up the axis of the earth. Zimov states that the threat to the climate is our permafrost. This metaphorical monologue concerns both the permafrost, which determines geographic shifts, and the particularity of the narrative of a personal, absolutely holy, sacrificial life, the agenda of which has now become more than relevant.
Zimov's suggestions are like those of a god's fool. A similar practice, only with more theatrical defamiliarization, can be spoken of in connection with Dutch artist Renzo Martens' "Enjoy the Poverty", in which he enters the territory of conflict and unfolds his dramaturgy. Set in colonial Africa, he tries to save the population by taking them on a magical journey. Zimov is a unique hero: his immersion in the drama, in which he lives and breathes, tries to restore the Old Testament tradition - to unite every animal to enrich the land, to destroy the coming tragedy of the permafrost.
"Bison to bison, mammoth to mammoth," says Zimov.
Director Sergei Snegirev leads the narrative of one of the prophets from the Old Testament, whose peculiarity - the inner experience for the fate of the world, is more expansive than any political gesture. Almost a saga: the father, through the film, invites his son to complicity, and together they begin the struggle between the pastoral and forest ecosystems. However, Zimov speaks through external and internal quotations about the salvation of the individual, about the reincarnation of the Earth, in which the context of the film as a construction of the manifesto emerges.
This is the peculiarity of not so much a narrative (almost according to Chris Marker), where the conventionally accusatory pathos is correlated with a certain kind of rigorism in which the possibility of augmented life on Earth, such a "second life" version of the poetically circumscribed verse, and Marker with an exploration of colonial politics are both manifest.
The new Noah - Zimov tries to save humanity by cultivating millions of animals on the new Earth. The effect on the climate only occurs in this way. Zimov's park is essentially a post-New Paradise, with a pair of every kind of animal found at the intersection of the Earth's radiuses.
In essence, Zimov rethinks the interaction between man and animal in the new post-colonial era. One cannot help but think of Viktor Kosakovsky's lyrical "Gunda" and Andrea Arnold's film "The Cow", where the animal becomes on par with man, even replacing him. Zimov's manifesto is in the salvation of the animal world and, through its salvation, the restoration of the Earth. As Rosie Bridotti writes: "Animals have long expressed the social grammar of virtues and moral distinctions in the interests of human beings. This normative function has been perpetuated in moral classifiers and cognitive bestiaries, turning animals into symbolic objects of norms and values." The value of Zimov's theory is in creating a new nature in which the animal is an element of the newest, created here-and-now bestiary. His mythmaking is paired with rearranging the laws of the Earth, or rather the modern Earth, which is dying because of man's actions.
In essence, Zimov is a realization of cosmogonic myth, reflecting the story of the origin of the Earth. The Pleistocene Park creates a unique system similar to the mammoth steppe ecosystem. The diverse animal world, which Sergei Zimov is passionately concerned about, is a new ark, saving the planet from extinction. Preserving permafrost in its frozen stage is humanity's deliverance from climatic catastrophe.
Climate catastrophe is undoubtedly a theme that runs through contemporary cinema. However, even Robert Flaherty's "Nanook of the North" touched on this subject unexpectedly, as it also touched on the possibility of redefining the understanding of the world through new ethics of attitude toward the ethnographic problem: Flaherty treated his character, on the one hand, as an absolute nugget, conveying both the memory of times and the experience of the north as such, on the other hand, as a unique character, one who is changing it by his participation in the world. Story of Sergey Zimov is a story of nomadism: he moved to Yakutia in the 1980s, and an attempt to record in the film the construction of a utopian but working institution (the Pleistocene Park) and the theme of illusion, which is not typical of this kind of research cinema, the film traces a line of enjoyment of life, or rather, enjoyment of nature, in which the main character exists, the theme of the separation of a personal good (the daughter-in-law's monologue about what where money could be spent if they were allocated for researching Zimov's hypothesis - which sounds somewhat ironic) and sacrifice in favor of nature, which is always grateful and which, perhaps, will pardon humanity, works to create an ersatz science of nature.
If what does not exist cannot be, Zimov's pathos proves the opposite: a new universe can be created out of nothing - this is perhaps his radical materialism. The humanization of the objects of the natural world in the form of a park and territory - a new ecological ethic, essentially defines Zimov's character as a special representative of research cinema, in which the manifestation of self as experience and essence is more interesting than any tragic image. Zimov is a utopian, and a true scientist manifested in his political rigor through a new life of poetic expression of the will of memory message with the archaic ancient world, in which myth could determine actual existence and real life. The climatic situation is a resource; Zimov's hypothesis is one of the essential perspectives saving both the planet and humanity from the looming and threatening total extinction. Zimov's universe is a humanistic project in which humans are the world's center.