Review: Into the dragon’s lair

12 Oct

Not one to miss out on an opportunity for free entertainment, on reading of the screenings going on at Watershed last weekend, as a part of the bi-annual Wildscreen film festival, I got myself down to the box office with a good fifteen minutes to spare, in anticipation of a busy crowd of nature enthusiasts and freeloaders like myself. At the box office I was offered the choice between the one about the crocodiles, or the one about the hummingbirds. Well of course maneater wins out every time, so I gratefully accepted my complimentary ticket and made my way up to the cinema.

The croc choice, Into the Dragon’s Lair, follows the exploits of two men who would be described, in most circles, as slightly unhinged. Experienced wildlife cameraman Didier Noirot is desperate to get close-up footage of huge Nile crocodiles and former corporate slave Roger Horrocks wants to get closer to nature. Together, they decide to dive deep into the Okavango Delta of Botswana, home to some of nature’s most dangerous creatures. It’s a treacherous experiment that hasn’t been attempted before for obvious reasons. “We know crocodiles will eat man, but we don’t know if they will eat divers. We will find out,” are the comforting words of one of the divers’ assistants.

Into the dragon’s lair is part documentary, part-horror horror film. The tension really is palpable, and I found myself squinting as Didier and Roger swam deeper into dark tunnels shrouded by papyrus, and held my breath as they suddenly glimpsed the end of  a huge gnarly tail and then – even worse – moved round to film the monster’s head. The apocalyptic music was frankly unnecessary – the fear in Roger’s eyes alone conveyed all the music’s contrived trepidation.

Dragon’s lair has previously been broadcast on Discovery channel, and it shows. A naturalistic style – which so often misused, would be perfect here – is eschewed for soundbites, and staid conversation between the protagonists who seem too often to be talking for the camera. Despite this, the film is enthralling and at times, very funny. Roger, who at the beginning, is openly fearful for his life, comes out the other end with a new-found respect for the animals who would have no qualms about eating him. Justification of ill-advised acts has rarely been so mis-placed, as you listen to Roger rationalizing that one is more likely to die in a car accident than in a crocodile dive.

The triumphant last dive sees Roger and Didier following a massive crocodile deep into its ‘lair’ where they finally have the opportunity to collect the detailed footage that they had dreamed of. The men perceive a bond, as Roger repeatedly explains that he felt the crocodile was ‘inviting’ them in. By way of not killing them. From a less informed, but more balanced perspective, one might suggest that the unusually passive croc was either dying or mad. Even Roger’s blind anthropomorphism cannot ignore the fact that these animals with the overwhelming instinct to kill, have brains the size of golf balls. The discernment of a bond that transcends animal-human boundaries begs more than a few questions.

 

 

 

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