‘Songs of Earth,’ A Nemophilist Vision About Our Bond With Nature

‘Songs of Earth,’ A Nemophilist Vision About Our Bond With Nature

Filmmaker Margreth Olin has brought to life Songs of Earth, about the landscape of her home, Oldedalen, nestled in the river valley in Western Norway. The film’s executive producers are Liv Ullmann and Wim Wenders, who have often expressed their nemophilism and have now helped this lyrical homage to Mother Nature take flight.

Songs of Earth is not just a naturalistic journey, but also one that explores family bonds and how the environment keeps them rooted through time. As Margreth Olin explained in our exclusive interview: “making a film about the landscape of home is also making a film about the inner landscape of my parents.”

Drone footage and breathtaking shots — captured across the Jostedalsbreen National Park by brilliant cinematographer Lars Erlend Tubaas Øymo — are overwhelmingly sublime. The visual rendering of the film truly gives the eye of an eagle effect. We may gaze at nature almost as if we were granted wings, that enable us to float about the landscape and fly above it with freewheeling spirit. Taking in these mesmerising images feels like a meditative experience, also thanks to the way the sound of the environment has been skillfully captured. Kudos to composer Rebecca Krijord, who wrote a score based on what various soloists had played using nature sounds that were recorded with special equipment on location. Once all these environmental symphonies were united, the final result was performed by the prestigious London Contemporary Orchestra.

Songs of Earth

Songs of Earth is an existential hike through life’s seasons. Hence, Margreth Olin’s father, Jørgen Mykløen, is followed throughout his wanderings during spring, summer, autumn and winter. Roaming through nature gives Jørgen the chance to share some family tales, like when his grandfather lost a finger in an accident and asked his bride-to-be if she was still willing to marry him. Jørgen also recalls episodes his own childhood in Oldedalen. This area of Vestland was very isolated and imposed many challenges for his family. But nonetheless it also became the beacon of solidity through the generations, which is epitomised by the spruce tree that was planted by his grandfather.

The documentary is an ode to resilience. Jørgen describes being born with his heels pointing forward and his toes behind and having to go through surgery when he was very young. Despite this initial impediment, he started to walk up the impervious mountains and kept hiking way beyond his eighties. One could say life started on the wrong foot for Jørgen, also since he lost his father at the age of 9, and inherited his farm at 11, having to manage it with his mother and his younger siblings. Life had thrust him adult responsibilities at an early stage in life, yet he pursued love and built a gratifying life. As the filmmaker poetically says, “Our lives are interwoven with nature. Our nature sets the premise for our lives.” This attests how Mother Nature compassionately accompanies us through every breathe we take. 

Songs of Earth

Another touching aspect of the film is the amorous relationship between Margreth Olin’s parents — Jørgen Mykløen and Magnhild Mykløen — who remained young at heart. Magnhild called her husband “boy” despite their age, which Jørgen ironically pointed out, and she replied that is how she saw him. Magnhild also expressed how painful it would have been to pass away after her beloved husband, and her wish was granted after the completion of Songs of Earth, since she departed first. The intertwinement of our aspirations, how life unfolds, and how some may try to grasp it through art (like Margreth Olin has done with her film) leaves room for transcendental considerations. It doesn’t surprise that the film was selected as the Norwegian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards.

Love is the core of this film, which begins and ends reminding us that our first love was (and is) nature. Spectators truly feel inside the subject matter that is being presented on screen. Songs of Earth is an immersive-absorptive experience. The film shows us that there is no boundary between the human essence and the flesh of the world, we are a continuation and expression of the raging glacier, the soothing waterfalls, the arduous mountain and the romantic fjord.

Final Grade: A

Photos Courtesy of Strand Releasing

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Check out more of Chiara’s articles.

Here’s the trailer of the film. 

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