Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo

Posted by Anne Nelson

Some of nature’s most exquisite handiwork is on a miniature scale, as anyone knows who has applied a magnifying glass to a snowflake.
-Rachel Carson

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo is the campy title of a beautifully photographed, warm-hearted little movie that I borrowed from Saratoga Springs Public Library last week (Saratoga allows non-residents to borrow most foreign and documentary DVDs with their Crandall Library cards). The movie is about the loving relationship the Japanese have with flying insects: fireflies are revered as visiting ancestors, dragonflies are celebrated in poems, beetles and crickets are kept as pets by children and adults alike. Like bonsai gardens and haiku poetry, the little insects seem to appeal to a uniquely Japanese appreciation for beauty in miniature. It is the first film from director Jessica Oreck, who is an animal-keeper at The American Museum of Natural History in New York. Although she is not herself Japanese, she opts to use Japanese narration in her film and the limited dialogue is mostly in Japanese as well. The photography is outstanding and the human subjects convey a universal joy in their enthusiasm for their bugs, prompting us to question whether our own tendency to fear insects is innate or just a bit of unfortunate cultural conditioning.

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