Film Review ‘Inconvenient’ and Real

The Former “Next President of the United States” Takes on a Global Issue That Has Yet to Convince the White House

News | Jessica Spiegel | July 2007

Gore gives his presentation using graphic images and humorous anecdotes while educating viewers about global warming

Truth can be inconvenient, but it can also be terrifying. This inconvenience may have brought on the current U.S. administration’s denial of the reality of climate change. When the world seems to be crumbling before our eyes, even the most conscientious European is often more concerned with going to the gym everyday than doing something to help the planet.

So it may come as a surprise to some that it is an American statesman who has devoted his life to teaching about the dangers of global warming.

After a 30-year struggle to be taken seriously, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore has finally succeeded in getting the public’s attentions with his Academy Award winning documentary.  An Inconvenient Truth, released in 2006 concurrently with a best-selling book of the same title, is not a film in the traditional sense – it is a slide show Gore had compiled and presented more than a thousand times before turning it into a film.

But don’t jump to conclusions. While the idea of a slide show might instantly send you yawning to the refrigerator, this is hardly your typical power point lecture.  The haunting photographs, witty animations, electrifying graphs, and a dry sense of humor may make it the most frightening hour and a half of your life.

Gore’s agenda is plain, and he wastes little time getting to the point: Unrestricted CO2 emissions are creating a world that will eventually be uninhabitable if no action is taken.

He takes us through 650,000 years of history to compare nature versus man-made destruction, allowing the graphs, images and scientific knowledge to speak for him.

Gore conveys his message as a realist; he never shows anger or impatience, only a fascinated disapproval of what mankind has allowed to happen.

This is not a political issue, he emphasizes, but rather a moral one – though it’s hardly necessary to prove the documentary was not intended for political maneuvering. In the States, such a stunt comes closer to political suicide.

But within the first few minutes of the film, you come to realize that taking care of our planet is a moral issue.  An Inconvenient Truth is convincing because it does not point fingers – something that weakens other critical films, like those of documentary satirist Michael Moore. Aside from good doses of condemnation given to the obvious targets, such as the Bush administration and big business, Gore never gets off track.

He makes it clear we are collectively responsible, and by sticking to scientific proof and a calm voice, he allows the viewer to come to his or her own conclusions.  Of course, it is difficult to keep an open mind while watching clips of bloated bodies floating through the streets of New Orleans or a cute animated polar bear clawing desperately at the last sheet of ice, stranded in a melted pool that once offered a solid habitat.

But other images are more pertinent: a snow covered Mt. Kilimanjaro from 30 years ago and the same mountain today, its rocky peak exposed and bare.  Or the graphic simulation of the streets of New York and Florida filling with water after the glaciers in Greenland melt. The images need little commentary.  And the graphs, however alarming, are straightforward. There are moments of humor, though, such as when Gore takes a forklift-like device to the top of the big screen, pointing out future CO2 levels and asking his audience if they have heard the phrase "off the charts."

The film is interspersed with personal anecdotes of Gore’s life, giving the documentary a human–if slightly melodramatic– touch. He walks his viewers through excerpts taken during his time as a student, a politician and a father.

And while his voice remains composed, his underlying passion is undeniable, not only passion for his fellow human beings but also for the planet we live on.

"It is our home," he states towards the end of the presentation.  "And that’s what is at stake. Our ability to live on planet Earth, to have a future as a civilization."

While the documentary seems saturated with bad news, it ends with suggestions of what we can do to help, ranging from using less hot water to replacing regular light bulbs with fluorescent ones.

These recommendations flash on the screen as Melissa Etheridge sings the very suitable "I Need to Wake Up," to the drop of stunning scenes of our modern natural world.

Al Gore and director Davis Guggenheim turn a crucial and depressing lecture into a mind opening experience, using evocative music and graphics to create a life changing encounter. Gore stresses repeatedly that we should take responsibility in our own hands for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

But the essence of An Inconvenient Truth is that we should take care of the planet we live on, because it is simply the right thing to do.


An Inconvenient Truth was screened at Webster Vienna on Jun.  25, following a lecture on "Renewable Energy and Climate Change" by Jurrien Westerhof of Greenpeace Austria. See also: "Almost Too Late"

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    the vienna review July 2007