More Than Honey
Film Title: More than Honey
Director: Markus Imhoof
Starring: John Hurt
Running Time: 95 min
Einstein probably didn’t really say that if the bees all die then humans would follow within a few short years. The dubious quote does, however, help communicate the importance of that species to our comfortable survival. It is, to paraphrase this decent documentary’s title, about more than the honey. Eagerly pollinating any number of plants, bees are accidental partners in many areas of agriculture. The news that they are dying off is, thus, not to be taken lightly.
This Swiss picture is at least the third theatrically released documentary on the subject to have reached us over the past five years, and it may be the best. Employing (in its English-language incarnation) a typically sonorous voiceover from Jon Hurt, More Than Honey moves from large-scale manufacturers in the US to cottage industries in Switzerland to researchers in Australia as it investigates the dynamics of bee keeping and the possible causes of the diminution: viruses, pesticides, mistakes in husbandry.
Along the way, More Than Honey addresses the arrival in America of the so-called “killer bees” and wonders if these more robust animals may offer solutions to the phenomenon of colony collapse.
The picture makes its case forcefully and is always lucid in its ordering of information. But it is the elegance of its images that sets it apart from previous doomed bee documentaries. The footage of individual animals going about their business is a sight to behold. The scenes depicting Chinese workers attempting to pollinate crops by hand is like something from a dystopian science-fiction fantasy. A shot of honeycombs being broken down for human consumption offers us the same luscious colours we might encounter in a blast furnace.
At such times, More Than Honey massages the same parts of the brain as chill-out documentaries such as Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka. Then, like those films, it reminds you that we may be living through the end of the world. That’ll wake you up.