The film “Océans”, a hymn to the world of the sea

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.
Sea nettles - photo : Richard Herrmann
“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.
(Source : MAEE/DCP/Annik Bianchini/January 2010)