The World of Mosses
December 4, 2012 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about the quietest, mellowest, most relaxing nature documentaries that you know. I have the Planet Earth and Blue Planet series, and they're both amazing, but I'm looking for something slower paced and with less carnivorous ripping things apart. I'd watch the World of Mosses, if such a thing existed. Little birds building nests. Beetles roaming about, beetling. The lives of fungi.

I'm happy to buy things on DVD, or I can stream from netflix, amazon or youtube, if they're available in that format. I look forward to your quiet and low energy comments.
posted by bepe to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 133 users marked this as a favorite
"March of the Penguins." (There's one brief bloodless chomp scene, I think.) Also, "Antarctica", which was originally released for IMAX, is about an hour long and includes a few cute penguins.
posted by Melismata at 9:43 AM on December 4, 2012

Microcosmos - amazing insect footage set to a Bruno Coulais soundtrack. Relatively little narration.

There's also Nature, from PBS. They've been on the air for like 30 years. I'm sure you can order old seasons from PBS.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:47 AM on December 4, 2012 [9 favorites]

Rivers and Tides.
posted by mochapickle at 9:49 AM on December 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

My go to answer for this question: Microcosmos.
posted by Cuspidx at 9:50 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Drakensberg Is a PBS Nature doc that's very soothing--the weather is rough, but that's about it. F. Murray Abraham's narration is like drifting off to sleep.
posted by feste at 9:50 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Absolutely seconding microcosmos and frozen planet from bbc
posted by PardonMyFrench at 9:51 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, if you like the Attenborough docs, the series called Life in the Undergrowth is good. Not streaming, unfortunately.
posted by feste at 9:53 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Winged Migration is lovely and contemplative. Much less informative than, eg, Attenborough, though.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:54 AM on December 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: These are all really great answers. Some of the titles are leading me to other interesting things on amazon, and before long I will have spent too much money. Thanks, metafilter!
posted by bepe at 9:56 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Baraka (Trailer).

Samsara (Trailer).

Powaqqatsi (Trailer).

They're all a bit 'wooo, foreign cultures are soooo mystical', but they are absolutely stunning films to watch. They're also considerably slower paced than the trailers suggest. Get 'em in HD and watch them on a big screen if you can.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:56 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I really enjoyed watching Wild China on Netflix.
posted by LN at 10:03 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

The PBS Nature series just did a whole episode entirely about ducks.

That may appeal because seriously, ducks. Ducks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:05 AM on December 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

Seconding, thirding, and fourthing Rivers and Tides. Sooooooo mellow but so much more interesting than your run-of-the-mill nature doc. I also liked Wild China way more than I expected to.
posted by lovableiago at 10:05 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

And with much respect to kestrel251, I do not think Winged Migration is what you're looking for--I found all the crazy bird sounds to be really grating. I was jarred out of a blissful sleep one Christmas morning years ago to a couple of my relatives watching it and I still kind of hate them for it.
posted by lovableiago at 10:08 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Beavers: IMAX. My husband came home when I was ten minutes into it and joked about my predilection for very boring documentaries, then helplessly sank down on the couch and sat there and watched the rest of it with me. Streaming on Netflix.
posted by SeedStitch at 10:13 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'll have to weigh in on the side of anti-Winged Migration. I love birds and all, but I remember the narration was so cheesy I wanted to tear my hair out. Maybe you can watch it with the sound off.
posted by matildaben at 10:22 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Alone in the Wilderness is quite nice. Seconding Rivers and Tides.
posted by Think_Long at 10:23 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sunrise Earth is the mellowest nature documentary series.
posted by lampoil at 10:23 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just as an addendum to Baraka and Samsara: these are both beautiful movies indeed, but they have middle arcs that can be a bit disturbing for certain audiences\mindsets. Like: beautiful temple, beautiful temple, beautiful, temple, grinding poverty, factory farming, grinding poverty, beautiful landscape, strip mining, beautiful landscape.

It's certainly effective and moving. But, mellow? Maybe not so much. I was at a party once where psychedelics accompanied a viewing of Baraka, and I had to talk a friend out of a bad head tangent when some of those aforementioned detours came up.
posted by bl1nk at 10:24 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

+100 for Microcosmos!
It's amazing!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:35 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm on my phone and can't search to see if/where they're available online or on DVD, but you could look for the BBC's Springwatch and Autumnwatch - TV series broadcast live each year in the relevant season with cameras installed in the nests of all sorts of migratory critters in the UK. They have lots of expert commentary and links from the likes of Chris Packham.

Who knew it was possible to get so emotionally involved in the fledging chances of a nest full of nuthatches? Not me, that's for sure (We still miss you, Runty! *Sniff*).
posted by penguin pie at 10:40 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Warning/spoiler re. Drakensburg - it's got lots of baby animal death and a heartwrenching scene of grieving baboons.

We've had Crown of the Colonies, a 30 minute documentary on Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias range on our DVR for about 2 years now and frequently use it as post-dinner chill-out video for our kids. Its got gorgeous scenery, a soothing narrator, and no animal death at all.
posted by terrierhead at 10:46 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Man, you guys are the best. I may have to wait for my dream movie "lichens: the untold story," but there will be much meditative viewing in the meantime.
posted by bepe at 11:17 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah, +1 million for Microcosmos. I saw it as part of a film series about 13 years ago. It remains the only time I have ever seen a dung beetle get a spontaneous ovation from the audience.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:21 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Babies is a nature documentary about four babies in different cultures from birth to one year old. It's totally wordless and has no narration. It's possibly the most soothing thing in the universe. About as hardcore as it gets is siblings occasionally whack each other with sticks, and new walkers fall down.

I realize it's people and not bugs or birds or baboons, but it really structures observing these human babies as a nature documentary, I think it counts. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:32 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Babies is fantastic, and the dung beetle in Microcosmos got an ovation when I saw it too!

I'll recommend Attenborough's The Life Of Birds.
posted by Specklet at 11:53 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Animals Are Beautiful People is non-violent.
posted by Dansaman at 11:56 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

180° South. Technically not a nature documentary, but this outdoor/nature travel film is Beautiful, has a great soundtrack and is suuuper Mellow and made me happy. Babies was great too.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:06 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

So relaxing, bacause there's NO commentary: the Windham Hill videos. The originals are perfect: Winter, Western Light, Water's Path,and Autumn Portrait; almost exactly what you want. More of a focus on landscapes than animals, and yes, sometimes those landscapes contain bridges, a boat, a ghost town and even a steam locomotive, but mostly the view is of trees and water. After those four, China and Tibet came out and they're more like narration-free travelogues. Don't bother with Solace, it's a compilation which only contains a few minutes of the original videos, the rest is film of Windham Hill artists performing.
posted by Rash at 2:06 PM on December 4, 2012

Into Great Silence, a documentary by Philip Groning, is an examination of life inside the Grande Chartreuse, the head monastery of the reclusive Carthusian order in the French Alps. For an envelopment in silence, peace and calm, and for the alpine landscapes, it is transcendent. It is, as well, an exquisitely beautiful film, all the more remarkable for being made with only ambient light and one assistant being allowed inside the building. It is one of my favorite 'calm all the way down' films.

Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter are the Four Seasons in Kyoto. I turn off the YouTube sound for whichever segments and play music meant to help me get to sleep.
posted by Anitanola at 3:56 PM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

How about Video Catnip? I know I sound crazy (presuming you are human), but it's just birds and squirrels and backyard sounds. Very peaceful.
posted by kostia at 8:42 PM on December 4, 2012

Warning about Samsara: there are some protracted graphic reality moments involving factory livestock, including baby chicks.
posted by batmonkey at 8:46 PM on December 4, 2012

This thread inspired me to do some searching. Here are some youtube videos you might like:
bryophytes: the secret plants that surround us (warning: I found this to be more about moss scientists than moss).
moss: a tribute
ferns: pteridophyte life cycle
the secret world of the plants
the little world of the algae eater snail (short. It has dance music playing, which is hilarious but not restful. I turn off the sound and put on something relaxing if I want to chill).
two garden snails exploring and eating (short)
pet snail (short)
posted by windykites at 7:37 PM on December 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

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