The film "Océans", a hymn to the world of the sea.


After Himalaya and Le peuple migrateur (“The Travelling Birds”), French filmmaker and producer Jacques Perrin explores the undersea world. It involved four years of filming in over 50 locations, and 70 expeditions, from the turquoise waters of the Tropics to the ice fields of the Arctic and Antarctic. To achieve this mammoth task, he called upon the most eminent scientists and cutting-edge technologies. The film, due to be released on 27 January 2010, marked the launch in France of the International Year of Biodiversity by the Minister of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and the Sea, responsible for green Technologies and Negotiations on Climate: an extraordinary plunge right into the heart of the oceans and their storms, in search of little-known or unknown marine creatures.

“The Ocean, what is the Ocean?”, asks a child at the opening of the film. Océans asks questions about the effect man is having on wildlife. It is not a documentary. It is real cinema. There is no external eye, no commentary. The image speaks for itself. Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud’s film is designed to promote the protection of a world in danger, and it showcases a fair proportion of marine species threatened with extinction. It has received support from numerous public and private partners (including the French state, regional authorities, companies and foundations).

To get to the heart of the matter - marine biodiversity - Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud sought to create a feeling of proximity between the viewer and the undersea world. So it was necessary to retain, through the images, an impression of speed and vitality. To do this, they had a real technical challenge to meet - “travelling at 10 knots amid a school of tuna out hunting, accompanying dolphins as they rush about at madcap speeds, swimming shoulder to fin with the great white shark”. Fourteen French, Japanese and Swedish cameramen set off into all the world’s seas. Twelve teams braved waves, rain and storms on board inflatable dinghies. Hundreds of biologists on the five continents were recruited. The budget was considerable: 50 million euros.

The innovations are remarkable. In order to film the whale without disturbing it, the team developed a special camera, gyro-stabilised and fixed onto the end of a crane installed on an inflatable dinghy. Called the “Thetys”, it was devised and built by Jacques-Fernand Perrin and Alexandre Bügel. The filming methods were totally original. The remote-controlled electric mini helicopter, “Birdfly”, silent and minute, is able to approach the largest cetaceans unobtrusively when they are on the surface. A “mid-air mid-water” machine capable of filming above and below the surface of the water at the same time, makes it possible to follow seals, sea lions or otters, which swim with their head above water. But the star turn among the inventions is the digital camera housed inside a torpedo drawn at top speed behind a boat, using a fibre optic cable. It films travelling backwards in order to view the animals face on.

Over and above the technical feats, this film is a cry of alarm about the state of our oceans. “And yet, the sea is still an immense wild territory. The ocean gateways still offer spaces of unlimited freedom,” acknowledges Jacques Perrin.

“In Cocos Island, off Costa Rica, you have only to put your head under the water to see fish of all species, sharks of all kinds, rays of every size and turtles and marine mammals dashing about,” says Jacques Cluzaud with amazement.

In the north of the Arctic, on the small Coburg Island, polar bears, walruses and seals are still alone in their home. In the far west of the Galapagos Islands the eagles, amid marine iguanas, sea lions and cormorants, land fearlessly a few metres from the team. And off the coast of Transkei (South Africa), clouds of birds plummet straight into the sea and wing their way in pursuit of shoals of sardines up to ten metres below the surface of the water.

It is in these small places that the images of the film Océans were filmed. Jacques Perrin immerses us in the heart of a primitive spectacle of great emotion.

Annik Bianchini

Published on 25/01/2010

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