HIDDEN GEMS: ECHOES OF THE INVISIBLE
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
--Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A man decides to walk from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, a feat never before attempted. He's going blind. A photographer decides to document the oldest organisms on earth; it takes ten years. A Tibetan, Buddhist monk prays on the desert sands before collecting grains to use for sand mandala, colorful, intricate designs which, when completed, are swept away.
Across from the monk's temple lies a massive telescope used by an astrophysicist/cosmologist to see into the infinite universe. On another continent in West Texas, a woman walks outside her back door to traverse a sandy patch of desert--an ancient sea bed once thriving with coral--and feels ancient boulders with her hands. And, an American journalist decides to walk the 12,000 mile journey once taken by primordial people from China to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
These extraordinary, earth-bound people all share a commonality: they find comfort in silence. But to watch this documentary, Echoes of the Invisible (2021), viewers must listen to the the participants' narration and hear their stories. And they must patiently bear the accompanying, sometimes strident soundtrack (thankfully not ever-present).
What matters rises to the surface, goes beyond the mundane: sweeping panoramas of landscapes hiding overlooked treasures in unlikely places; organisms, such as a 7,000 year old tree on Yakushima, Japan, or a forest that's actually one aspen tree with its leafed-protuberances interconnected, rising toward the sky--a single, living organism. We watch nature's longevity revered by those who live in the moment.
Director/Cinematographer Steve Elkins catches our attention with his photographer's eye, visceral instincts. Stimulated senses respond--you can feel the heat emanating from the bowels of Death Valley; hear the leaves of trees rustling in the wind and imagine the taste of the salty air, or see the wide, undisturbed valley below from a hermit's eyes. And, the stories flow together, the scenes coalesce. .
To embark on this journey through Elkin's lens is to remain open-minded. By the end of the documentary, Echoes of the Invisible, you will be filled with wonder.
Opens on June 22 in select theaters, VOD, and to rent on iTunes and Altavod.
Earlier reviews are available on https://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/wendy-shreve/movies
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