It is icy cold in the High Fens of Belgium, a raised bog area in the east. Although winter puts a “blanket of cold” over all life, it is where the gray shrike, a gray-white, blackbird-sized bird with a black mask that has a habit of impaling captured prey on sharp tree spines, hibernates there.
The film Our nature – Wild Belgium shows the gray shrike (Lanius excubitor) that pins down a mouse and then eats it. Then follows in the voice-over of the Flemish actor Matteo Simoni the text: “The great shrike is a butcher disguised as a songbird.” What The new wilderness is for the Netherlands, is Wild Belgium for our southern neighbors: a documentary that proves that in extremely densely populated countries you can still ‘experience’ nature, not just any nature, no, wild nature, wilderness nature. It must be said immediately: the Belgian version relies heavily on the Dutch original from ten years ago, it is almost one remake. Also now the four seasons, wild animals such as fox, hare and red deer; the kingfisher is also present.
The Flemish filmmakers and field directors Van Lente, Harrewijn and Niesten spent several years in Belgian nature, from the Zwin on the coast via the countryside to the forests of Wallonia. The film excessively accentuates the horse drive, especially of insects such as the stag beetle and the spring fire spider. The urge of hares (“The rattles only think of one thing”) also receives all the attention, and if a male has too much ‘craving’, the female (nut) throws him away and then the voice-over gives the explanation : “Not too hasty, hare.” And during kingfisher courtship, when the male offers a fish as a prey transfer to initiate mating, it is said: “The first kiss tastes like fish.”
In the long run, the projection of human emotions onto animals in the form of children’s book language is annoying. The choice of animal species is not clear. In fact, they all occur in the Netherlands, so there is Our nature not specifically Belgian. Not a word about the biotopes that characterize this country, for example the steep rocks of the Ardennes, even though they are distinctive. The emphasis on insects and smaller animals forces the authors to zoom in; with stag beetles and spring fire spiders this leads to spectacular images. The item about the peregrine falcon, on the other hand, is unfortunately clichéd. Despite all the substantive shortcomings, this film does, as well The new wilderness, the viewer realizes how rich nature is. But a new angle has not been found.