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Gorillas In The Mist

Gorillas In The Mist

By Alison Devlin • March 10th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Universal Pictures / Warner Brothers

Original release: September 23rd, 1988
Running time: 123 minutes

Director: Michael Apted
Writers: Harold T.P. Hayes, Dian Fossey, Anna Hamilton Phelan, Tab Murphy

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Bryan Brown

Every day we see adverts asking for our money to help save endangered wildlife, but how many of us actually pick up the phone and take action?

There are currently fewer than 600 mountain gorillas living in the world at this very moment. However, there may have been none if the young and ambitious zoologist named Dian Fossey, hadn’t made it her priority to protect this incredible species.

Gorillas in the Mist, directed by Michael Apted, is Dian Fossey’s (played by Sigourney Weaver) biopic, the legacy she left behind, in film. It recounts the epic journey of a woman, frail and struggling in a man’s world, surrounded by cigarettes and lipstick; to a jungle woman, immersed in the little known world of gorillas and fighting for their, and her own, survival.

“When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future” Dian Fossey

But, is this film about conservation or is it a film about a woman who has chosen a life of loneliness?

Gorillas In The Mist

Encircled by her gorillas, Fossey is in bliss, but behind the smile, this is a story about a sad woman who didn’t chose a conventional American life and has had to search for somewhere to belong. That place happened to be alone in the jungle with her primates. The one ‘man’ that remains constant in her life, is the beautiful Diget, the dominant silverback gorilla. He is alone as well, the head of the pack, but a loner all the same.

No one else could portray Fossey like Sigourney Weaver. She herself is a strong and independent woman. In all her characters, for example, Ellen Ripley (Alien, 1979) she is a survivor, start to finish. The female protagonist, the female warrior and a female inspiration, but also alone, trapped in space with no man by her side. Even in her role as Dana Barrett (Ghostbusters, 1984) she was a lone woman, fighting off the advances of Peter Venkman and now we move to the more recent times of Grace (Avatar, 2010) a scientist, alone. So, looking back – who else could have been Fossey?

Gorillas In The Mist

For over 5 years, Fossey is engulfed in the world of the gorilla; spending hours sitting with them, acting like them and protecting them from the horrific poachers. After one of her love interests leaves her broken hearted in the jungle, she has turned sour and the film reflects badly on that part of her life.

It seems the director wanted Fossey to seem hopeless without a man in her life, which is perhaps a very sad truth that reflects on society. The old saying “Men. You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them”, applies here. But is that true in this day and age? Possibly, it was in the 1980’s when America was promoting the perfect ‘nuclear’ family, but in today’s society, there are thousands of single mothers and thousands of divorcees – should we really be promoting that kind of message when there are so many strong females about?

Gorillas In The Mist

This movie is slow, but that’s not necessarily a bad point. It is slow because it reflects how the conservation issue was handled in earlier years, a slow response to an increasingly difficult issue. While in today’s society, if you use the power of the media and social networks, you can generate responses almost instantly! For example, the #Kony2012 Twitter campaign that took the nation by storm on March 7th; the night before people began trending #stopkony #Kony2012 and so forth, and from the morning of the 7th, almost everyone knew who Joseph Kony was.

As a media student, it Is interesting to see how issues like this can be made aware by a few people starting a debate on Twitter or Facebook.

When you next see a woman working in Uganda, Rwanda, etc.… Do not assume how lonely she is, think of the brilliant work she is doing. This film tells the story of one woman’s lack of human love, but what about her love for the animals? We should celebrate her dedication because she made such an impact on the conservation of mountain gorillas.

Fossey was strong, focused and did what she wanted. Her growth from a city girl to an African animal activist is fantastic and that is what we should take away from this movie. I applaud women like this.

Gorillas In The Mist

Alison Devlin

Alison Devlin

Alison Devlin is in her final year of studying Media, aiming to be a professional critic in a magazine. She occupies her time with writing in her blog , making short art films, writing short scripts, doodling in her notebook, decorating her room with movie posters, watching documentaries about wildlife and taking calls as a receptionist at her part time job.

Her favourite films include Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, The Woman in Black, and Alice in Wonderland. An admirer of Quentin Tarantino, she enjoys reading about and watching postmodernism programmes, such as ‘The Mighty Boosh’ and ‘Family Guy’. Also a devoted fan to Alfred Hitchcock, she hopes to one day make cameo appearances in her own written films.

You can follow her on Twitter @devlinalison.

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