Paddle to the Sea (1966)
This Academy-Award winning film directed by Bill Mason, is the ultimate journey story that focuses on the importance of the journey itself rather than its effect on the character taking the journey. The journeyer is an inanimate object, and the audience learns nothing about Paddle simply because there is nothing to learn. We learn very little about the boy who created him, other than he dreams of taking a journey such as this. Paddle’s journey seems dangerous, but rather than feel fear for him, as viewers we are merely curious to see where nature will take him next.
The only real character in this film is Paddle’s surroundings. Mason is obviously pointing out the glorious mountains, the awe-inspiring glaciers, and the untouched forests as he follows Paddle. RB Movie Reviews gives us a bit of insight on the filming; Mason and his camera operator followed Paddle (and his many stunt doubles) through this course mapped out by the original picture book for two years, through every season twice, filming mostly at water level. The audience gains an appreciation for nature that the filmmakers wants to convey. We see the corrosive and destructive affects of man along the way, as well. Many reviews like this one on FilmCritic.com hails this film as a children’s movie, and while it has some elements of childhood fantasy journeys and its definitely appropriate for kids, I would describe it more as an environmental plea. Mason wants us to see the natural world as plot and character all in one. Just as those that find Paddle are asked to “put me back in the water,” Mason asks us to leave our Earth to its natural course, as well.
Enjoy the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony tonight!