The subjects as mere animals? No, we are too anthropocentric to let that happen. We project onto them our human anxiety against captivity and control. The resonances the film evokes are those of anthropolitics and Foucaldian biopolitics. Even hints of Agamben's homo sacer and thanatopolitics. Man as commodity. Man as subaltern. It's a film worthy of contemplation: it speaks volumes where no annotation exists.
The trick is that, even though the concluding images release the animals that we once saw in cages, we're all the more horrified by this supposed freedom of space. Camera always landing at unexpected angles. Sound design is frequently the best in show - the sound of zebras banging against their own cages, scuttling around, then trying again is one of the film's most harrowing sonic observations. Really depressing.
"A popular sensation in medieval Europe," according to the Sundance catalog, "bestiaries were catalogs of beasts featuring exotic animal illustrations, zoological wisdom, and ancient legends." Furthermore, Cotes' "modern version is an elegant, bewitching meditation on the nature of sentience.” The verdict: We are one of them. And zebras are skittish.
Cote has made a wonderful reflective, observational, dialogue free examination of our relationship with captive nature and wild beasts. Using the concept of 'the bestiarie' as a launching point Cote had access to a zoo/amusement park in southern Quebec (Parc Safari) and follows the workings there through three seasons. Our gaze is often reflected back and the silence speaks volumes. Cote continues to surprise.
So stunning and profound-- so restrained, rigorous, and full of respect for his subjects. I was more than moved, this film is such an important contribution to cinema. It was with a heavy heart that I left the theatre- this is best film I have seen this year.