Gorillas in the Mist Review

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Dian Fossey (Weaver) isolates herself in the jungles of the Congo to study the already dwindling families of gorillas there. She grows increasingly fixated with and protective of them, eventually descending into bitterness - understandable given her buddies are being chopped up and made into ashtrays by poachers..


People seem either to love or hate this picture, a moving and harrowing account of American Dian Fossey's 20-year struggle first to study and then to save the dwindling population of mountain gorillas in central Africa. As most already know, Fossey's fight to protect the animals ended with her unsolved murder in 1985, presumably by poachers.

Fossey's life doesn't make a pretty story, and Sigourney Weaver, always at her best playing tough cookies, doesn't flinch from portraying Dian as an increasingly bitter bitch whose obsession with "her" primates made her unsympathetic and even cruel to human beings. Weaver—who was nominated for an Oscar— is excellent, carrying the film from Dian's first dewy-eyed captivation by the shy simians to her grief for their deaths and her tyrannical obsession with them, ending in some frankly unhinged behaviour.

Filmed on location in Rwanda, Gorillas In The Mist makes for magnificent viewing of jungle and mountains, while the gorillas themselves inspire wonder and emotion. Remarkably, a team of mime artists in gorilla costumes were apparently slipped in with the real animals, but it's impossible to spot which is which. After becoming familiar with the family groups and their fascinating ways, one can easily comprehend Fossey's growing mania. You'd have to be some cold fish not to share her anger or be upset by scenes in which baby gorillas are brutally captured and tormented before being sold to zoos, and the appalling depiction of gorillas killed and mutilated so their hands can be used as souvenir ashtrays.

The introduction of Bryan Brown, as the National Geographic photographer assigned to the story and who briefly shared Fossey's heart, provides a romantic respite from the nature study and proselytising, but it is Dian's occasionally exhilarating, largely disturbing story which dominates. Ultimately this dramatisation of her tragedy is a more galvanising tribute to Fossey and her work than a pretty, gentle, traditional animal-lover biopic would have been. The video should come with a packet of tissues and Save The Primate literature: you'll want them

Superbly acted and shot, it is as stubborn and wondrous as the life it portrays.