Brett Morgen's 2017 docu-mentary Jane is a remarkable portrait of primatologist Jane Goodall. It chronicles her early studies and field work on chimpanzees in Tanzania. She challenged and then revolutionized our understanding of the natural world and how we fit within it. And in an era when women weren't really encouraged to be independent, it was extraordinary that Goodall—a woman with no scientific education or experience—went into the forests of Africa pretty much alone, and managed to not only find herself, but her passion and calling and the great loves of her life.
Jane is as much a vivid historical document as it is a profile of Goodall, made using a treasure trove of more than 100 hours of never-before-seen 16 mm footage. The footage was thought lost until its rediscovery in the National Geographic archives in 2014, more than five decades after it was originally shot by celebrated Dutch wildlife filmmaker and photographer (and Goodall's eventual husband) Hugo van Lawick. The gorgeous footage looks as fresh and vibrant as the day it was shot, and it is edited together so seamlessly by Morgen that it nearly feels like one stunning mosaic made even more spectacular by Philip Glass's original score.
In an interview with Billboard, Glass explained that his work for Jane varied between composing music for more intimate and emotional moments (gentle, subtle, fluttering, and gliding orchestrations, like the softly swelling strings and flute that play as a baby chimp frolics through Goodall's camp) and for the epic, grand-scale moments (those panoramas and stunning aerial shots of great Serengeti expanses and the animals that crowded them five decades ago accompanied by brighter, faster-paced, more lively, urgent, and full-bodied orchestrations, rife with jaunty marching percussion and sparkling woodwinds and dramatic climaxes).
Throughout, Glass enforces or underscores those moments of joy and hopefulness, aggression and violence, heartbreak and tragedy, playfulness and whimsy. He never competes with the film's natural sounds or imagery, never creates a false sense of emotional impact. "What I'm doing," he said, "is providing the aural background and the aural context that the film exists in."
"A lot of directors feel that nothing is more powerful to affect the emotional landscape of a movie than music," says arranger/film composer William Ross, who led the orchestra that performed at the Jane film premiere at the Hollywood Bowl in 2017. He's excited to reprise his role with Seattle Symphony, which will provide live accompaniment during the screening event at Benaroya Hall.
And if you're worried the symphony will drown out the audio of the film, don't. You are about to see Jane in an exquisite aural format, definitely a superior way to experience it than originally intended, and leaps and bounds better than watching a stream of it in your underwear while loafing around on the couch. Put on some pants already and go be awed.