The end of an idyll
by Kathrin Halter
- Swiss director Markus Imhoof is back with a documentary that exceeds all expectations.
After 15 years of absence, Swiss director Markus Imhoof (Das Boot ist voll) is back with a documentary that exceeds all expectations, and not only in the box office. More Than Honey [+see also:
interview: Markus Imhoof
film profile] is a deeply disturbing work, which benefits from lucid narration.
According to the words of industrial beekeeper John Miller, we could be facing "Death on an epic scale". For the past few years, he has observed the disappearance of bees on a global scale, and his own hives are no exception. Miller does things on a grand scale, transporting his bees by truck across the United States to then set them free in huge plantations, of almonds for example. “What you hear is the sound of money,” he says happily, listening to the buzzing sound coming from a flowery landscape, almost surreal, which stretches as far as the eye can see. Nevertheless, these long trips are a great source of stress for the insects, which are not made for monocultures and suffer from the pesticides. But that is not enough to prevent Miller from pursuing his intensive breeding – despite a few pangs of conscience, he will not give up his business.
MoreThan Honey is much more than a captivating study of nature, stunning in its use of macro shots. With the meticulous skill of a detective, Markus Imhoof investigates the causes of the disappearance of bees and familiarizes the spectator with their highly complex social life. As the descendant of a family of beekeepers himself, his endeavour takes him around the world, from Europe to China, and through Australia. He there meets his daughter, who, with her husband, is carrying out research on the immune system of bees, with the hope of developing a new breed with higher chances of survival.
Like the majority of good documentaries, More Than Honey owes a great deal to its protagonists. We therefore get to know John Miller, who, while pinpointing the inherent contradictions in his own activity, still appears as likable. At the other end of the spectrum, we discover Fred Jaggi, a beekeeper from central Switzerland, who tries to preserve the purity of the local breed, and two Austrian breeders who send queen bees by post all over the world.