"L'Ocean, c'est quoi l'Océan?"
In a single word: BREATHTAKING!
Two words? AWE-INDUCING. Also JAW-DROPPING.
Seriously, there were several moments in this film when I noticed my mouth was gaping and I couldn't seem to bring myself to close my jaw. It is that beautiful!
Océans is the latest project by French documentary film-makers Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud (of Microcosmos and Le Peuple Migrateur / Winged Migration fame). Released in the U.S. by Disney Nature for Earth Day (I wonder why they didn't wait for World Oceans Day?) it has been highly popular with critics and the general movie-going public alike. I have trouble getting my friends to join me in the cinema... but none of them wanted to miss this one! Although that might have something to do with the high percentage of biologists among us... ;o)
From what I've seen by comparing the two websites, the French (and Spanish which is what I saw) version of the film is a bit different from the US one. The narrator is rarely present (as opposed to Pierce Brosnan in the English version talking about each of the animals... from what I could tell in the videos on the Disney page), and is basically there to ask a question and let the images try to answer it for him. To me the music and images come together to create a form of poetry that is very true the nature of the Ocean itself and what it has inspired in so many people since the dawn of humanity.
The movie starts with a group of children running up a sand dune and then one of them stopping and gazing out at the Ocean. Then the story begins (my loose translation): "One day, a child who discovered the sea asked me: "the Ocean, what is the Ocean?" And I didn't know how to answer. What is the Sea? What is the Ocean? How to tell?" and we set across the roaring waves to try and explain through images what words cannot describe.
As I mentioned before the narrator rarely intrudes, just enough to send your mind wandering down another chain of thought, whether it be to marvel at how marine animals get from point A to point B, how they can move at such speeds or be so graceful, or to follow the path of man throughout history as he ventures further and further into this environment (from old sailing ships to modern ice-breakers and fishing ships) and wonder at the impact and which animals will be able to survive...
50 locations around the globe... no wonder it took 4 years to film! And I've barely visited any of them... *sigh*
Although I enjoyed the absence of an over-bearing, all-too-present narration, I did miss having a bit more information (as opposed to none!) about the animals and environments we were catching glimpses of. In spite of having recognised many (that marine biology degree is finally good for something, lol!), there were still so many curious and unkown critters to me that I found myself thirsting for MORE! Fortunately the movie's website has plenty of information (photos, videos, fact files, notes from where and when they were caught on film). The interface is fun too as the different animals become available as dots where they were filmed on a spinning globe... Apparently this information will also be available as a booklet (or extras?) when the dvd comes out this summer (at least the French version). Sadly most of this information is missing on the Disney website, so if you want to know more about these animals or go further behind the scenes of the movie then you'll have to dust off your French! :p
My favourite animal (in the movie)? How to choose? I thought the marine iguanas from the beginning (and end) in the Galapagos were really cool, and the Floridian horseshoe crabs (which are more closely related to spiders than crabs btw!) really brought back memories from my Zoology classes. The spinner dolphins were fabulous and a new sight for me. And the polar animals are always favourites of mine, this time with sounds! That scene with mother and baby walrus... "awwwwww!!!" (*melting inside*) I can't pick!
There were moments when I laughed, and there were moments when I cried... There were scenes that had a bigger impact on me that the whole of The Cove (shark finning, animals dying in fishing nets). And as I said before there were moments when I just couldn't close my gaping mouth. The sequences of several species fishing, diving through a ball/school of fish come to mind. With birds plunging into it as if they were torpedoes.
Or the simple elegance of a column of fish rapidly closing into a protective ball.
It was full of moments... and not once did I glance at my watch. When it was over I was kind of in shock, and then spent a good hour talking it over with my friends.
The film-makers have stated that:
"Man doesn't just need the products of the Sea, he needs the unpredictability of the living world. He won't find that in a fish farm, but in a wild nature and faced with free animals. What Ocean do we want to give our children? An Ocean emptied of its big fish, inhabited only by medusas, crabs and squid? Our planet isn't made to be tossed aside in 100 years, but to bear life for billions of years to come. There is no other planet to save us, there is no spare Ocean."
Indeed, there is no spare. This is all we've got. Time to take better care of it!
I don't know if this is still playing in a theatre near you (I caught it late), but if it is -and you haven't seen it yet- then GO!!! Definitely worth the big-screen experience. ;o)
For now I'll leave you with the English and French trailers... already a trans-Atlantic difference there!
This is my entry for the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon. Due to "life" getting in the way (rehab, work, a whole weekend away with friends as a "bachelorette party") I haven't had time to dig out the scientist in me for a more "educational" post like last year's... If I can (between reading and summarising the other posts for the Blog-A-Thon) I might whip something up later on in the day.