An Inconvenient Truth, which was first screened in USA during the Sundance Film Festival in January 2006, is a documentary on controversial issue of pollution and global warming. The film is presented by Paramount Classics and Participant Productions and is directed by Davis Guggenheim. The narrator in the movie is former Vice President Al Gore.
It is likely that most people could wave it off as yet another one of those sensationalist and dull shows featured on television networks such as the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). However, the creative talents of the director helps turn this much imagined drabness prior to watching the movie into an instant myth. Sprinkled with instances of humor and interwoven with engaging interviews that takes the viewer back into some of the crucial and touching moments in Gore's life, the movie throws a passionate and inspirational look at his fervent crusade to understand the global warming issue and his call to every individual for moral action.
Gore has been interested in the global warming issue since his college days. Since having concentrated his efforts during the past decade, he has worked relentlessly to spread awareness of its truths, myths and misconceptions
through a series of lectures throughout the United States. He has assembled scientific data and personal knowledge into a slide show and lecture format. Truth" is a filmed version of these lectures. “Truth” is the filmed version of
these lectures, with Gore, armed with his silver laptop, standing in front of an appreciative crowd discussing the evidence he has gathered on the subject.o
The movie begins with Gore taking the audience through a dream like state where they witness the beauty of undisturbed nature - the sound of the river, the rustle of the leaves, the chirping of the birds, the loose soil on the river bank and the peace that engulfs it all. His intention as he goes through this sequence of scenes is not clear until, with a little sigh and an undertone of guilt, he says :
...there's a gearshift inside you, and its like taking a deep breath and going,'Oh yeah, I forgot about this.
Those straightforward lines perhaps symbolizes the main idea behind his presentation - that we have neglected our moral imperative to look after and preserve our environment. It might have been true for several of the people sitting among the audience. It took one man and his presentation to instill this realization that as humans, we can forget. With this rapturous style of direction from Guggenheim , Gore is able to begin this serious issue by making it an immediate and personal concern for each one of us.
In the next couple of scenes, an ambient, evocative tune composed by Michael Brook takes us into a run through of Gore's past lectures, his travels across cities worldwide with multitudes chanting his name on the roads, his meetings with several important people and moments when he received standing ovations after giving a talk.
These preliminary sequences serves to establish his determined character and firm resolve on the issue of tacklingglobal warming. Yet he feels he is in trials, that he has failed to get the message across and this idea is superimposed
on a scene where he is gazing intently through the window of his car while working on his laptop.
As he enters the stage, he quickly dismisses the seriousness in the auditorium with the opening lines :
I am Al Gore. I used to be the next President of America.
This quickly sends cheers among his audience.
As the film rolls, we get into the heart of the issue. According to Gore, many people feel that the earth is so vast and overwhelming that the actions of humans cannot have any lasting effect on the environment. He cleverly relates this idea with an anecdote of an old scientific belief that reflected in a classroom discussion, and a famous quotation of Mark Twain. He concludes that much of people's ignorance over established scientific facts and relations is the root cause of earth related consequences. Gore refutes the 'just ain't so' mentality of people by presenting the vulnerability of the atmosphere and likening it to the flimsy thickness of an orange peel.
He briefly describes the Green house effect of the Earth and why the survival of living species is made possible. The sun's rays permeate the earth's atmosphere and heats up the surface. Some of this solar radiation is completely reflected back into space. The majority of it heats up the earth's surface. The hot surfaces of the earth in turn radiates some of this heat in the form of infra red rays (IF) into the atmosphere. The presence of greenhouse gas molecules like that of CO2 causes absorption and re-emission of the IF waves which in turn warms the earth and keeps it at a somewhat constant temperature. Hence, this is the cause for the favorable range of temperature conditions that makes life possible on earth.
However, with increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through human activities, the earth's temperature gradually increases causing a global warming. The changes in a small time frame could be subtle enough to escape notice, but over the course of many years, the measurements and observations of average temperatures changes seems to fortify the idea that the earth is indeed warming. Gore lays out the science behind the
notion that our fuel emissions act like an envelope, trapping heat in the atmosphere and causing glacial retreat, the melting of polar ice caps, increases in hurricane intensity and other climate changes.
To lighten up on the gloom and doom, Gore let his presentation turn silly with a segment from the animated TV show Futurama, in which thug-like greenhouse gases beat up solar rays and leave their rotting corpses encircling the planet causing global warming.
The audience then find themselves learning about Roger Revelle, one of Gore's college professors, who seemed to be an early inspiration for him. According to Gore, Revelle was the first person in the academic field to propose the measurement of CO2 levels in the atmosphere. With meticulous research beginning in 1958, Revelle and his colleagues came up with data supporting the global warming theory, which Gore says was startling at the time.
Revelle's conclusions and outlining of future trends in CO2 levels becomes the source of the distinct red lined graph that the audience sees through much of the presentation. The graph shows CO2 levels climbing without stop in a span of almost 50 years (1958-2005). Gore explains the reasons for its distinct undulations and what was first a very absurd looking diagram soon begins to provoke deeper thinking and play on people's fears. Gore presented the data to Congress in the 1970's and even had his professor show up to support him, but Congress didn't take it too seriously.
The next couple of sequences concerns the solidifying of the theories, trends and graphs advanced earlier with more graphs and startling pictures of the hurricanes in America, melting ice caps and retreating glaciers in Alaska. With the aid of a hydraulic lift, Gore takes his audience up the climbing graph to help them have a real appreciation for what temperatures were really going to be like when their children were grown ups.
An important segment in the movie arrives when Gore talked about setbacks in his professional life, and deeply saddening tragedies within his family that helped him see his life in retrospect and reinforce his mission to get his message across to the people. Three key events, as portrayed in the movie, shapes the man’s outlook : An accident that nearly killed his young son, his sister’s death from lung cancer and the family guilt from its former occupation as tobacco planters, and his photo-finish loss to Bush in year 2000. This ability to see the connections
between his personal and professional life provided him the clarity and strength to reinforce his stand on the issue, to jump a step above (if not leave aside) his personal problems and do something good for the world.
Gore, with this passionate lecture of science, graphs and startling pictures, can evoke strong feelings in anyone but apart from meanderings in the promise of clean technology and a great call to personal action, he does not seem to come up with any concrete plans as to how the issue can be resolved. He seems to be accomplished and convincing in his role as lecturer, with witty remarks and feigned vexation in the movie. Clearly, he couldn't be doing anything bad by advancing this theory since any suitable action against it can only be good for the environment.
Maybe it's not his job to lay out the plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but the man clearly does a good job at casting this not as a partisan issue, nor even as a political one, but as a moral imperative. How much this movie was instrumental in reeling into the hearts of many 'disbelievers' and bringing about a willingness in every person to make an individual contribution to helping solve this problem will reflect the its real success over the months and years to come.
Thursday, August 10, 2006