Wolf pack

20 minutes

Zea

5 minutes

Susan Greenfield on neuronal assemblies

9 minutes

Plato’s allegory of the cave

9 minutes

Solos

5 minutes

A masterwork of nature filmmaking that helped transform how wolves were seen

The Canadian author, artist and naturalist Bill Mason (1929-1988) was celebrated for his films exploring his country’s vast wilderness. Perhaps his best-known work is a trio of films about wolves – Death of a Legend (1971), Cry of the Wild (1972) and Wolf Pack (1974) – aimed at educating the public and dispelling negative myths about the animals. For Wolf Pack, the shortest of the trilogy, Mason chronicled the lives of wolves facing the dramatic changes of the seasons over the course of a year, elucidating the central role of social hierarchies and cycles in their lives. With profound respect and admiration for the wolves permeating each sequence, Mason finds brutality and beauty in the pack’s perpetual struggle for survival, creating an iconic entry in the crowded field of nature documentaries.

Director: Bill Mason

Website: National Film Board of Canada

Dramatic close-ups capture something percolating and exploding – but what is it?

Winner of the Jury Prize in the 1981 Cannes Film Festival’s Short Films competition, Zea is an impressive and exhilarating piece of macro filmmaking. In a montage, close-ups capture a mysterious yellow subject as it heats and bubbles. But what is it? Canadian filmmakers André Leduc and Jean-Jacques Leduc keep viewers in suspense with a sequence that gradually builds in effervescence, ultimately erupting in a conclusion befitting its dramatic orchestral accompaniment, Tallis Fantasia (1910) by Ralph Vaughn Williams.

Directors: André Leduc, Jean-Jacques Leduc

Website: National Film Board of Canada

Why don’t we feel pain in dreams? The answer might lie in a new frontier of neuroscience

The UK research scientist Susan Greenfield believes that neuronal assemblies – coalitions of millions of brain cells that activate and disband over a scale of millimetres and milliseconds – could be a Rosetta Stone for explaining shifts and differences in states of consciousness. Although research about these cellular systems is still in its early stages, Greenfield thinks that further study could help neuroscientists bridge the chasm between the local neural networks and large brain regions that currently characterise our framework for perception. And, as she proposes in this interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn for the PBS series Closer to Truth (2000-), bridging this gap might be key to unlocking some of the foremost puzzles of consciousness – from sleep, dreams and wakefulness to mental illness.

Video by Closer to Truth

Orson Welles’s psychedelic 1973 adaptation of Plato’s timeless ‘allegory of the cave’

Warning: this film features rapidly flashing images that can be distressing to photosensitive viewers.

‘It is the task of the enlightened not only to ascend to learning and to see the good but to be willing to descend again to those prisoners and to share their troubles and their honours, whether they are worth having or not. And this they must do, even with the prospect of death.’ – Plato’s Republic, Book 7

Plato’s ‘allegory of the cave’ thought experiment ponders the experience of prisoners shackled in a cave from birth, only able to see the shadows of objects projected onto a wall. The text then traces the journey of a prisoner who is set free from the cave, given the opportunity to experience reality in the glow of the sun, and, upon returning to the cave, is met with laughter by the other prisoners, who think him a fool for struggling to readjust to his old existence. A simple story yielding complex commentaries on the nature of reality and wisdom, Plato’s timeless allegory is built into the foundations of modern philosophy, and, more than two centuries later, still stirs debate. Carried by a rich narration from Orson Welles, this rarely seen 1973 animated adaptation of Plato’s words populates the tale with haunting human figures, bringing retro-surreal life to the parable.

Via Open Culture

Director: Sam Weiss

Narrator: Orson Welles

Animator: Dick Oden

Sketches from a Barcelona square offer an elegant celebration of people-watching

Barcelona’s squares (plaças in Catalan, plazas in Spanish) are the beating heart of the Catalonian capital – beloved to residents and tourists alike. Breaking the monotony of the city’s gridded streets, these open outdoor areas percolate with the comings and goings of al fresco diners, makeshift football matches and all iterations of art and commerce. Formed from sketches made while the London-based filmmaker Gabriella Marsh was living in Barcelona, the brief animation Solos captures daily life in a small square in the historic Gràcia neighbourhood. Streets are swept, families squabble and friendly greetings are exchanged. And yet these mostly mundane scenes transform into something quite remarkable via Marsh’s stylish hand-drawn images and composer Joe Bush’s gentle piano score. What emerges is an elegant meditation on the intersections of streets, stories and social forces that give shape to a city block.

Director: Gabriella Marsh

Composer: Joe Bush

A masterwork of nature filmmaking that helped transform how wolves were seen

The Canadian author, artist and naturalist Bill Mason (1929-1988) was celebrated for his films exploring his country’s vast wilderness. Perhaps his best-known work is a trio of films about wolves – Death of a Legend (1971), Cry of the Wild (1972) and Wolf Pack (1974) – aimed at educating the public and dispelling negative myths about the animals. For Wolf Pack, the shortest of the trilogy, Mason chronicled the lives of wolves facing the dramatic changes of the seasons over the course of a year, elucidating the central role of social hierarchies and cycles in their lives. With profound respect and admiration for the wolves permeating each sequence, Mason finds brutality and beauty in the pack’s perpetual struggle for survival, creating an iconic entry in the crowded field of nature documentaries.

Director: Bill Mason

Website: National Film Board of Canada

Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter

Illustration by Richard Wilkinson

Essay/
Evolution
Catastrophes and calms

Evolution is extraordinarily creative in the wake of a cataclysm. How does life keep steadily ticking over in between?

Renée A Duckworth

Pope Benedict XVI, despite rumours, did not wear Prada. ‘The pope, in summary, does not wear Prada, but Christ,’ said the official Vatican newspaper in 2008. Papal footwear has traditionally been red and is regarded as the colour of martyrdom. Photo by Giampiero Sposito/Reuters

Essay/
Design and fashion
What do shoes do?

Partly of the earth, partly of our body, the shoe sits on the edge of an ontological threshold. Where can it transport us?

Randy Laist