Negotiating with Nature. (Film Review)

In Film, The Menu. by Chiara Isabella Spagnoli GabardiLeave a Comment

Negotiating with Nature fully captures today’s main issue: mankind’s current Weltanschauung clashes with the way nature works. Filmmaker Stefan van Norden has the lyrical objectivity and open-minded poetry to lead audiences through a narrative of awakening. This suave documentary is an ode to nature and a call to action for the natural environment’s renewal and survival of all living beings.

“The Earth itself is a garden,” are the words that first guide us through this utterly inspirational cinematic sustainable voyage. The documentary poignantly captures how humanity is confronting a crisis of the soul. The phenomenon of “Nature Deficit Disorder”  is thoroughly portrayed as a condition of our century.

The changes in society have withdrawn mankind from its natural element. Humans no longer have experiences outdoors. People have become isolated from what truly nurtures them and determines their existence: the environment. Generation Z gets more and more tech-savvy. Youngsters become the masters of the impalpable digital realm, and withdraw from sullying their hands with the essence of life: the Earth.



There was a time when men could rely uniquely on natural resources to provide for basic needs, through hunting, gathering, and subsistence agriculture. The industrial revolution and urban living swept it all aside, and now technology should channel itself to find new tools for men to reconnect with nature. Returning to a subsistence economy seems to be a utopian goal and yet it is the only solution to save our planet and Earthlings from the threats of climate change. Nature nourishes the body as much as the soul, as the film beautifully describes: “Gardens are as necessary as poetry and art.”

Our times have developed a sense of apprehension towards nature. However, the fascination for the High Line in New York attests that there still is a magnetic force that draws human beings towards the evocation of wilderness. They just have to remember where they came from. Humans must overcome what the film defines as “Environmental Generational Amnesia.”



Stefan van Norden never explicitly mentions the Gaia hypothesis, but the concept is drenched in every minute of the narration. Living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic and self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life. We are part of it.

The compelling Negotiating with Nature reminds us that we cannot exist in isolation from nature, it’s our genesis but we treat it as our nemesis.


All images courtesy of Negotiating With Nature (2018) a documentary film by Stefan van Norden 2018

About the Author

Chiara Isabella Spagnoli Gabardi

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi, is a film critic, culture and foreign affairs reporter, screenwriter, film-maker and visual artist. She studied in a British school in Milan, graduated in Political Sciences, got her Masters in screenwriting and film production and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York and Los Angeles. Chiara’s “Material Puns” use wordplay to weld the title of the painting with the materials placed on canvas, through an ironic reinterpretation of Pop-Art, Dadaism and Ready Made. Chiara works as a reporter for online, print, radio and television and also as a film festival PR/publicist. As a bi-lingual journalist (English and Italian), who is also fluent in French and Spanish, she is a member of the Foreign Press Association in New York, the Women Film Critics Circle in New York, the Italian Association of Journalists in Milan and the Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean. Chiara is also a Professor of Phenomenology of Contemporary Arts at IED University in Milan.

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