I cannot say enough about the movie Albatross, by Chris Jordan.
First, get a copy and see it, then get back to this post.
Having seen the movie, you already know that Albatross is a kind of re-boot of the poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, written almost two hundred years ago by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Quick refresher course: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is the tale of a man who kills an Albatross, the very symbol for Christian redemption who dies for our sins. The Mariner is then cursed — and until he finds the blessings of the creation and all that is within it — he sails the seas on a ghost ship, haunted until his penance is done.
To digress for just a second, I think the Rime of the Ancient Mariner should be made into a full-length feature film. (I have a screenplay, Mr. DiCaprio, if you are listening!) But, it’s much more than that, because Albatross touches upon the human condition, our overreaching civilization, our power, but also our powerlessness, in the face of a climate and extinction crisis.
It speaks to our over-consumption of the planet, our need for cheap and tawdry plastic crap, and our inability to see what we are doing. But most of all, it touches the human heart, reconnecting us to the very essence of beauty, grace, loss, grief, and all that we fear — correctly — in this modern age.
In the mid-twentieth century, humankind discovered how to mine petroleum and mold plastic to fit our disposable, and ever-so convenient, lifestyles. In The Graduate, a popular movie starring Dustin Hoffman, the word offered up as investment advice for hope, prosperity, career, and more was: “Plastic.” Later, it became synonymous with films like Mean Girls, which features the cheap, easy, and yet powerful, “Plastics,” a clique of mean girls who throw their weight around wreaking havoc, and hurting the innocent.
…it touches the human heart, reconnecting us to the very essence of beauty, grace, loss, grief, and all that we fear — correctly — in this modern age.
Plastic as a symbol, as an attitude, as a ubiquitous necessity, is now everywhere: In water bottles, caps, food, containers, SUP (single use plastic), medicines, clothing, cars… Everything. And it kills. It kills marine life, and birds, and even human beings with its toxic mixtures. We find ways to pretend we are not doing this evil. We don’t hold those who profit from it accountable, either — yet.
Out-of-sight-out-of-mind, mentality sees to it that we see plastic as trash, to be dumped on less fortunate nations, ecosystems, and children. Of course, it should not be treated as garbage, but as gold: upcycled, recycled, safe.
Plastic is the ultimate symbol for our collective sins, and the Albatross, just as in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, is once again the perfect entity to stand as the Christ figure, salvation, and inspiration, if we just learn our lessons.
Fair warning: This film shows real suffering, and it will touch your suffering. We all sublimate the loss and grief of old Earth. This could help fix that.
The film has almost no dialogue, or even much narration. It is told in pictures. Sometimes of great revelation, always with grace and dignity for the beings on Midway, and the place itself.
Midway Island was famously used doing the greatest world conflict ever known: World War II. It is a very appropriate setting for Albatross. No John Wayne. No Saving Private Ryan, but all of the heroics and heart-wrenching drama of determination and dignity. It also displays real love, and extreme courage.
There are angels, and there are devils. There is a stark, and lovely land, and a vast, and overwhelming ocean. The land serves as a kind of home base for our species. The ocean serves as a mirror of ourselves, but also the real hope for redemption, freedom, and beauty that we can set sail upon, if we act quickly.
There is cuteness, and cleverness, and conquest, and comfort.
I cannot recommend Albatross enough. But there must also be some caveats. Most people are not courageous enough to face our faults. We live in bubbles, and denial, with good reason. To access stark reality is almost debilitating. Yet, it is entirely necessary. The film takes an unflinching look at what we are doing, not only to the natural world, but to ourselves.
Only in seeing the truth can we plan a course toward a greater world, and a glorious, more redemptive truth.