Twenty-five days after Brazil’s nervously thrilling overture in Sao Paulo, the 2014 World Cup arrives at the Estadio de Maracana in Rio de Janeiro for its curtain call. Brazil’s heat was meant to encourage slow, risk-averse football. Instead, the sun – and occasional tropical torrent – has beaten down on a nonstop party of attacking spirit, one of the best tournaments yet. England’s wilting aside, this tournament has exuded a warmth that will have Russia’s 2018 organisers shivering.
Ahead of the final act, individual performances deserve a mention: Colombia’s James Rodriguez showed that South American football, even in the era of YouTube montages, can still wrong-foot the rest of the world; Tim Howard’s heroics could finally have the USA hooked on soccer for good; the Flying Dutchman Van Persie ghosted in for the first of many World Cup shocks.
Perhaps the 22-year-old, bleach-topped Neymar typifies what has made this World Cup one of the best ever. In a vastly complicated country, he and his fellow showmen have made their every move look so simple.
From narrator David Attenborough’s opening words, you will lose yourself in a sumptuously beautiful film, first shown in 2010, recording the seasons in the world’s highest, most inhospitable, mountains.
“There is more life here than in any other mountain range on earth,” says Attenborough, before we are introduced to its inhabitants. These include mountain goats, where the bucks follow the available females with their tongues hanging out, like whiskery perverts in a public park.
Some of the footage is astonishing. Just watch as a pair of golden eagles ambush a crane, mid-flight, and prepare to hang on to your armchairs as honey-hunting humans dangle from cliffs as they raid the nests of huge, dangerous bees.
But it’s the animals who are the stars like the lolloping brown bear who, laughably and improbably, looks just like a man in a brown bear suit.
It’s always a treat to see film-makers trying something different. In this stirring audio-visual postcard, Virginia Heath galvanises history by pairing archive footage (from the earliest and most striated to gaudy and colour-saturated) with King Creosote’s haunting indie folk.
The music is classily judged throughout: a playground motif for girls rope-skipping down the street, jaunty for trips to the seaside, racier for a sequence on dating and nightlife.
The detail-rich vignettes (miners smoking, couples skating on frozen rivers, a self-conscious sandwich-board boy advertising Auchtermuchty Flower Show) are almost too much for one sitting. But it’s spellbinding, especially a majestic ascending shot of shipworkers that’s worthy of a Scorsese period drama.
The care and thought with which the film has been assembled is exemplary: the knocking of support struts beneath a ship that’s being launched turns into a drum beat, scenes of children being drilled in gasmask wearing precede shots of a bombed-out classroom… It’s like a new kind of history programme: immersive, lyrical and, in its way, beautiful.
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