In Ariane Michel's last film, Sur la Terre (2004), a boat sailed past a remote nature reserve, but in Man on Land the scientists go ashore - in Greenland. While the director travels with them, she is not interested in their scientific ambitions or personal dreams. Using extremely abstract visualisation in this tranquil essay she portrays the confrontation between man and beast, between man and nature, seen from a much more real perspective. For Michel it is not man who appropriates nature, but nature observing an alien intruder.
When the men arrive in Greenland, they are only vague silhouettes driven by equally misty intentions. Slowly but surely their actions and motives acquire more relief; never through dialogue, but always because the director anticipates them from many fixed camera positions, as a result of which their behaviour, like sign language, starts to acquire a familiar syntax. In the course of the film, nature reveals itself to be both bad-tempered and curious and an initially hesitant acquaintanceship changes into a slightly more intimate relationship. White and grey change to more colour, surprise makes way for habituation, until the men almost become part of the landscape. But the alienation remains.
Michel makes tangible the way in which the gulf between geological and human time is as grand and broad as the polar landscape itself. (GT)