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Trending: The World Is Amazed With This Time Lapse of a Growing Cell

By David Schonauer   Monday March 11, 2019


Who knew that an alpine newt could be so enthralling?

Dutch photographer and filmmaker Jan van IJken’s time lapse “Becoming”  is a six-journey showing the development of a single-celled zygote as it divides, multiplies, and eventually grows into a fully-formed organism. The motion project has become an internet sensation: PetaPixel has called in “mind-blowing,” while NoFilmSchool praised it as “unforgettable” and “a gorgeous example of what timelapses can become in the hands of a skilled artist.” Vimeo named it a Staff Pick.

That’s a lot of fuss over a tiny creature. “Native to central and southern Europe, the amphibious alpine newt breeds in shallow water, where its larvae are born, hatch and feed on plankton, before sprouting legs and moving to land,” notes online platform Aeon. “Captured in stunning detail at microscopic scales, 'Becoming' is a remarkable look at the process of cell division and differentiation, whence all animals – from newts to humans – come.”

Therein lies the video’s power: It's not only that the film's educational value "strangely inspiring” (NoFilmSchool), or that it is strangely beautiful. The time lapse is an emotionally touching documentation of the beginning of a life. Photographer Lennart Nilsson similarly amazed the world with his images of a human fetus developing in the womb, while filmmaker Stanley Kubrick took such visuals to a cosmic level in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Here, van IJken also captures genesis, writ small.

PetaPixel notes that van IJken condensed three weeks' worth of footage to create the six-minute time lapse.

At his website, van IJken describes himself as self-taught and working mainly on “autonomously on long-term projects.” Lately, he notes, he has become “more and more interested in human-animal relationships, nature and microscopy.”

That interest can be seen in another of his films, “The Art of Flying.” The two-minute film considers the wonder and beauty of starling “murmurations” as the birds fly in dense, undulating formations. “Because of the relatively warm winter of 2014/2015, the starlings stayed in the Netherlands instead of migrating southwards,” notes van IJken atVimeo. The opportunity, he writes, gave him “a chance to film one of the most spectacular and amazing natural phenomena on Earth.”

In the film, as in his newt time lapse, van IJken searches for and finds a link between art and nature.

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