Morgan Freeman’s words boomed out across the cinema,” This is a story about love, and like most love stories, it begins with utter foolishness.”
What were we watching? The latest remake of ‘Gone with the Wind’, or a romantic version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’? No, not exactly. My wife and I were snuggling up together, in the cinema seats, to watch ‘The March of the Penguins’. Snuggling was the proverbial word as the average temperature on the screen was 20 degrees below freezing and that’s without the wind chill factor.
That’s what first struck me about the lives of the Emperor Penguins. How do they survive in such a harsh environment? They not only survive, but love blossoms in the coldest place on earth. The March of the Penguins is all about the love-life and family-life of these wonderful creations. God sure knew what he was doing when he created these birds. They have some lessons to teach us all.
This love story begins with a seventy mile march inland to a seemingly remote and barren rendezvous, with penguins coming from many different directions. After greeting each other and exchanging pleasantries they find a mate amongst the many hundreds milling together. After consummation takes place the female lays an egg and covers it under a flap of skin. The pair carefully exchange the egg and the father then puts it under his flap of skin, and balances it carefully on his feet away from contact with the ice so that the new baby will not die before birth.
The mother penguin treks back seventy miles to get food while the father stays huddled with all the other dads for 125 days without food. He will endure temperatures of up to 62c degrees below freezing in blizzards with winds up to 160 kilometres per hour, all the time carefully looking after the precious incubation of his new son or daughter.
The male penguin will lose 1/3rd of his body weight while his female partner is off catching fish and replenishing her body weight. The father looks after the baby chick after birth and somehow feeds his newborn with the last of his stored reserves.
Soon the mother returns and takes over the feeding of the newborn while all the fathers trundle back to the sea in single file to replenish body weight and stored reserves. From then on mother and father take turns looking after the rapidly growing penguin chick as the summer begins to approach and the sea comes closer and closer to the penguin’s breeding ground.
The National Geographic movie was a huge hit in America and also here in Australia. The Movie Reviewer at the time complained about Morgan Freeman’s narrative as being too ‘something or other’ but we found the March of the Penguins absolutely inspirational. Interestingly, Rotten Tomatoes which has a tendency to more reflect the opinion of the common man, gave March of The Penguins 94% when it was released.
More recently, and thankfully, Rotten Tomatoes saw through the duplicity of the recently released porn movie Fifty Shades of Grey. Unfortunately not everyone has. Tragically, movie critics think that trash and cynicism are hallmarks of greatness. Many times you cannot trust them. The March of the Penguins is great romance story which is best seen on video.
As fathers, we can learn from the Emperor Penguin that it is a ‘cool thing’, quite literally, to look after our newborn. The idea of laying your life down for your wife and children is taken to a new level by the penguin fathers in the winter of Antarctica.
The concept of ‘family first’ takes on a whole new meaning after watching this movie. Get a copy of March of the Penguins, and a watch it with your family. You will not be disappointed.