The Velvet Queen – movie review

In 2019, award winning nature photographer Vincent Munier set out to try and capture vision of the rare snow leopard in its natural habitat. There are fewer than 7,000 snow leopards in the world today and they mostly live in the most remote regions of the Himalayas, and rarely venture below 3,500 feet.

Munier was accompanied on this expedition by Cesar award winning filmmaker and cinematographer Marie Amiguet and best-selling travel writer Sylvain Tesson (In the Forest of Siberia), who provides the poetic and lyrical narration and offers up some philosophical discussion on the appreciation of nature, both the beauty and fragility of this natural environment, the power of meditation and quiet contemplation.

This visually stunning documentary was shot over a period of two weeks in the desolate mountainous regions of Tibet, and the crew faced harsh conditions and freezing temperatures as they waited in their little camouflaged hide waiting to spot the rare snow leopard. In the meantime, Munier was able to capture images of other creatures like yaks, antelopes, owls, falcons, and other inhabitants of this remote region. Munier was experienced with the stillness, the quiet anticipation and waiting, while Tesson sometimes seems bored by the endless waiting for something to happen and the endless anticipation. Munier admits that often he comes away from a shoot like this without the desired results. While Tesson came to a greater appreciation of the beauty of the world around him, a perception that has hitherto largely passed him by due to his busy and peripatetic lifestyle. He wrote about his experiences with Munier in his book The Art of Patience – Seeking the Snow Leopard.

Munier and Amiquet share co-directing credits on The Velvet Queen and they capture some stunning imagery and views of the often-forbidding landscape. The three were also accompanied by filmmaker Leo-Pol Jacquot, who was also credited as cinematographer and second unit director. The documentary is accompanied by a haunting and atmospheric score from frequent collaborators Warren Ellis and Nick Cave.

The Velvet Queen is as much about the journey itself rather than the destination and the film itself requires a lot of patience from the audience too as we wait for something to happen to break up the monotony. While quite beautiful to look at, The Velvet Queen is not a film for everybody.

Greg King

Other reviews you might enjoy: