French filmmaker Nicholas Philibert this time delves into the world of 40-year-old orang-utan Nénette, who lives in an enclosure in the Jardin des Plantes zoo in Paris. Having already lived to a great age for her species, Nénette has fascinated the local community and visitors to the zoo for many years now.
This documentary film is very much a reflection on Nénette's life, looking at how others see her as they gaze through the glass partition. The story is told through snippets of conversations overheard from visitors at the zoo, with contributions also from her carers and keepers, while our eyes remain on Nénette and her mates all the time. The only time we see anything of the contributors is through a blurry reflection on the glass, with the subject of the movie always being our main focus.
Nénette's actual story isn't particularly interesting in terms of how she got to where she is and what has happened during her time there but the telling is unusual. You find yourself somewhat fascinated just staring at this creature and watching her mannerisms for the duration of the film.
For some reason almost all of the children who stop at the orang-utan enclosure become enthralled with Nénette in particular, calling her, telling her stories and making humours observations about her physical characteristics. In the footage, we also see another side to Nénette when the keepers talk of how long it took them to bond with her, how she doesn't like change and her very particular habits.
'Nénette' is an interesting study, particularly if you're an animal-lover, but it won't be everyone's cup of tea.