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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Nim Chimpsky
Herb Terrace
Bob Ingersoll
Stephanie LaFarge.
Directors
James Marsh.
Screenwriters
Running Time
99 minutes

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Project Nim
Haunting, harrowing, heartfelt


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Plot
In 1973, behavioural psychologist Herbert Terrace attempted to challenge Noam Chomsky’s thesis that only humans can have language. This involved raising a baby chimpanzee - punningly named ‘Nim Chimpsky’ - in a human family, then rigorously teaching him sign language in a human-only environment. This documentary is the story of that chimp’s life.


Review
Project Nim
Going by the evidence of Project Nim, it’s hardly surprising that one day apes will rise up against us, eventually ruling some kind of Planet Of The Apes... Seriously, though, James Marsh’s true account of the unfortunate, unnatural life of chimpanzee Nim is fascinating, sobering and at times deeply upsetting.

Beginning with Nim’s separation from his mother and ending with the greying beast bored and isolated in the cage of an animal rescue ranch, Marsh’s film constitutes a series of emotional gut-punches that leave you wondering how so many people could be (at worst) so emotionally atrophied or (at best) so numbingly naive.

Not that Nim was always abused. In fact, for a good portion of his life Nim lived in unimaginable (for a primate) luxury. His very early years were spent with an academic hippy family as the eighth of seven children. His ‘mother’, Stephanie LaFarge, even breastfed the chimp. Then, when Herb Terrace felt LaFarge’s study lacked the requisite structure, the chimp and his teachers were ensconced in an empty mansion. Yet this only sharpens the outrage when Terrace ends the experiment and Nim is returned to captivity, to encounter members of his own species for the first time, before being sold into animal experimentation.

Nim is hardly just a cute victim, though. An adult male chimp is five times stronger than a human, with fangs that could literally tear your face off. One of Nim’s carers had a cheek torn open. Another had her head pounded repeatedly into a pavement. Nim may have expressed an endearing love for cats (“Cat me Nim hug”), but he also tried to hump them, and killed a yappie poodle by hurling it at a wall. The sheer irresponsibility of the project is exposed on many levels.

But Marsh doesn’t simply present a rogue’s gallery of humans. The likes of Bob Ingersoll, the chimp’s firmest champion, show there’s hope for us yet. Despite the central subject, this is very much a human drama, and it’s most compelling for the way it shows how Nim formed and affected relationships with and among the non-chimp players. It’s tragic, though, that this particular ape’s misadventure on the Planet Of The Humans couldn’t have been fictional.


Verdict
Gripping, heart-wrenching, powerful and a sad indictment of scientific practice, which shows that ‘human’ and ‘humane’ are all-too-often mutually exclusive.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Project Nim
Empire Star Rating

Touching and Heart-wrenching. This film captivates the cruelty of human nature and the innocence of nature, and the course of friendship, love and volatility when these two forces collide. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by danfacey711 at 17:40, 02 June 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Rise of the Planet of Nim

Actually the comparison is very apt, and if you haven't seen it yet/i]I don't see how you're in any position to make the comment you did. I have seen both and the similarities between them is very noticeable. Both films have CGI monkeys in them (to Project Nim's credit I didn't realise until it said in the credits), both films are all about conveying the emotions of said simians. Both films have good guys and bad guys, the good guys see the monkey as a living creature, the bad guys se... More

Posted by narmour at 08:42, 16 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Rise of the Planet of Nim

Really want to see this after deciding on ot Brother ong haul flight (not sure what I was thinking). Comparing it to t silly though. That's like comparing ters at the end of the WorldHappy Feetthey both have penguins in them. ... More

Posted by st3veebee at 14:33, 14 February 2012 | Report This Post


Rise of the Planet of Nim

Planet of the who cares..... this is by far a superior film to the Planet of the Apes franchise reboot which came out about the same time. There is far more heart, tragedy, emotion, humour, and engagement in this film. It's a beautiful story of the complex moralities involved in science and how the lines between humans and apes became further blurred. With power comes responsibility, and the responsibility for Nim's wellbeing sadly fell through the cracks. Absolutely wonderful film, 5 stars. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by narmour at 15:43, 13 February 2012 | Report This Post


Rise of the Planet of Nim

Planet of the who cares..... this is by far a superior film to the Planet of the Apes franchise reboot which came out about the same time. There is far more heart, tragedy, emotion, humour, and engagement in this film. It's a beautiful story of the complex moralities involved in science and how the lines between humans and apes became further blurred. With power comes responsibility, and the responsibility for Nim's wellbeing sadly fell through the cracks. Absolutely wonderful film, 5 stars. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by narmour at 15:43, 13 February 2012 | Report This Post


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