0 Love It
Save it

Edwardian Insects on Film

Tue Mar 19, 9-10pm, BBC4

What wears a pointy hat, nurses a tiny doll and is glued to a chair with a blanket over its legs? An Edwardian insect on film, of course! In 1910, amateur naturalist and cinematographer Percy Smith caused a stir with his surreal images of ‘acrobatic’ insects. Alongside the ‘nurse’, his films featured flies weightlifting and juggling.

It’s the latter that our guide, wildlife photographer Charlie Hamilton-James, attempts to recreate with the original camera equipment. His task lends this documentary about Smith’s life and work a sense of anticipation (minus any irritating pseudo-jeopardy), while hammering home the significance of his achievements.

Smith pioneered a staggering range of techniques, including time-lapse photography, animation and underwater film, and his innovation didn’t go unappreciated by Edwardian England: we see his flies both sensationalised as front page news and morphed into political cartoons. The more we learn about Smith, the more justified this ode to him seems, while his sweet, funny and beautiful films (by the 1920s they were regularly billed next to groundbreaking avant-garde cinema) are proof enough of their own worth.