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“We all start this way”:
Life’s beginning, through a microscope

“We all start this way”:
Life’s beginning, through a microscope

Every time a living cell divides, it’s a microscopic miracle. That miracle, multiplied by a million, is what you can see in this short film by Jan van IJken, as he invites us to see a new life in the making: a baby salamander growing inside its own egg. Scroll down to watch the full film.

A single golden orb floats in the darkness. Then it splits in two. Then four, then eight. Soon there are too many to count. The cells migrate and clump together, forming eyes, a spine, skin. A heart suddenly starts beating. Blood flows through veins. Filmed under a microscope, this is the invisible beginning of life made visible by Dutch documentary maker Jan van IJken in his short film Becoming

In just six minutes we see an Alpine newt embryo developing from that first fertilised cell into a complete new living being, ready to enter the world.

“I made this film to capture the origin of animal life,” Van IJken says. And in watching these earliest moments of life materialise in front of our eyes, we can truly appreciate how universal this process is, shaping each of the 2 million species of animals that inhabit our planet.

“We all start off this way,” Van IJken reminds us. “We are a tiny part of the ecosystem. Maybe it’s time to change our mind a little bit, not consider ourselves the centre of the world – and be a bit more humble.”

Secrets of nature up close

With an endless fascination for nature, Jan van IJken zooms in on life in its many awe-inspiring forms, including a special project on the otherworldly beauty of microscopic plankton.

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