Filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud‘s 1988 award winning film ‘The Bear‘ is a unique treasure. Based on James Oliver Curwood‘s 1916 novel ‘The Grizzly King,’ the film treats Curwood’s fictional yet semi-autobiographic tale of an orphaned grizzly cub’s struggle for survival with an omniscient eye. The hunters tracking the cub and the surrogate mother bear are not rendered villainous, but average men. The animals themselves are not puppets or animation, but actual grizzlies.
It is a quiet and minimalist film as if we, the audience, are watching from a hidden camera. Annaud’s film keeps its focus tight on natural order — the mother bear is killed by fallen rocks, the cub kills frogs to eat, a mountain lion hunts the cub for food. Man hunts for food and sport. All are seen through the same lens of a wild Earth. The film is choreographed and organic documentation.
Shot in the Swiss Alps disguised as 19th century British Columbia, the film offers panoramic views of forest and wood, fogged mountains and stone pocked rivers and creeks. The cinematography offers a bevy or expansive vistas and gorgeous natural images for an artist to pull from, but for his poster of the film released by Nautilus Art Prints Belgium based illustrator Laurent Durieux spotlights the key relationship of the film — bear and man. Durieux captures perfectly the strange roles each play in the world — without the gun, the bear wins the hierarchal position, but armed, man gains strength. Power. For an illustrator known for the epic cinematic quality of his work, here Durieux takes this complicated natural order and places it within a beautifully sublime composition.
There is a level of fetishism to the hunter’s connection to their rifles and the work it does. It is routinely polished, cleaned, and tenderly cared for. This is where Durieux’s ‘The Bear‘ places its heart. This is quite possibly Durieux’s most meditative illustration, a work that matches the quiet honesty of the film. The poster illustrates wonderfully the film’s famous tagline, ‘the greatest thrill is not to kill but to let live.’
Laurent Durieux’s ‘The Bear’ is currently available in the Nautilus Art Prints Shop.