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Deep Blue (PG)



Dir. Andy Byatt & Alastair Fothergill, 2003, UK/Germany, 83 mins

Cast: Michael Gambon

Some people don't like paying to see nature documentaries when they can watch them at home on the television. Most people visit the cinema expecting to see something that will move them, a film with drama, comedy, action, spectacle and horror. Deep Blue, the new film from the BBC Natural History Unit and Greenlight Media, utilises the big screen and surround-sound glory to show us that there is plenty to excite and fascinate us in the natural world.

In the words of co-director, Alastair Fothergill , "Deep Blue takes you to a world never seen before, to what is genuinely the last frontier on our planet. Despite the fact that the sea constitutes two-thirds of our planet, we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the deep oceans." Much of Deep Blue's footage was originally shot for the BBC television series, Blue Planet, the most comprehensive documentary of its type ever committed to film. Directors Alastair Fothergill and Andy Byatt assembled 20 specialised camera teams, shot over 7,000 hours of footage in more than 200 locations around the world for more than five years, and descended as far as 5,000 meters in the most powerful submersible crafts. New species of ocean dwellers were discovered, and many photographed for the first time ever. Deep Blue invites the audience to join in the film-maker's own palpable sense of wonder as we join them in making these remarkable discoveries. There really has been nothing like this released in cinemas before.

Deep Blue's first major scene places the audience in the middle of hundreds of dive-bombing albatross gorging themselves on a huge shoal of sardines. The ensuing feeding frenzy becomes a Bacchanalian open house orgy as tuna, then dolphins, sharks, seals, and finally a couple of whales help themselves to the horde of scurrying fish. All of the action is captured by a dazzling combination of aerial and underwater photography that makes you feel as if you actually are amongst the darting seals and sharks gliding overhead.

It's during jaw-droppingly exciting moments like these that remind you why nature documentaries should stray from the more familiar realm of television more often. The size of the screen and quality of the sound really makes you feel as if you are witnessing the events in person. During all of Deep Blue's 83 minutes you cannot be but awed by the life sized sea animals that star throughout.

Deep Blue is a journey of discovery through the extremes of the world's oceans. From the mysterious abyss of the Mariana Trench and its alien inhabitants devoid of all light, to the gravitas of the Arctic wastes and all the hardships that it brings those brave enough to dwell there. We get to enjoy light-hearted moments too as we witness the hilarious sight of overweight Emperor Penguins marching along the Antarctic ice flow towards the water. There is something about penguins that make people want to laugh, but they defy their awkward appearance as they rocket through the freezing water like mini-torpedoes, landing back on land and using their ample bellies to slide along the ice ever so gracefully.

In order to take its audience to never before seen world's the film's crew had to invent new equipment to withstand the ocean's depths, as well as utilising existing tricks and methods to capture the film's many highlights. Time-lapse photography is used to capture thousands of tiny crabs laying their eggs along the shoreline of a balmy Caribbean beach. What probably takes days and weeks for the small crustaceans is presented in less than a minute. Queue the enthralling scene of millions of eggs miraculously appearing on the beach, spiralling around the sand and hatching moments later.

Deep Blue is a movie that will constantly astound. Refreshingly, this type of cinematic dynamite achieves its aim of creating immense spectacle without having to rely on the use of CGI, big pyrotechnics or daredevil stuntmen. The film's amazing cast of creatures is 100% real, showing us by the finale that life is much stranger than fiction.

The message of the film, which was previewed on World Ocean Day, is that the sea has yet to reveal all of its secrets to us. It is both inspiring and depressing to realize what a valuable treasure the oceans are to us and yet how quickly mankind is destroying this unique natural asset.

Five-time Academy Award-nominated composer George Fenton's remarkable score performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra almost elevates Deep Blue to the same cult cinema status as Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi . Unfortunately, the mesmerising combination of music and image is occasionally interrupted by Michael Gambon's narration, which although used sparingly is unnecessary and rather distracting as it does not actually describe what we are seeing. Although Deep Blue is breathtaking to watch it fails to define itself as a pure documentary, unlike Blue Planet, which had extensive narration from David Attenborough and the luxury of examining its subject matter in depth over six one hour episodes. If the film had dispensed with the narration altogether it would have succeeded as an innovative and original piece of visual art capable of moving its audience with the power of its images alone.

Adults sick of the same old blockbuster nonsense and kids looking for the next Finding Nemo will help elevate Deep Blue to the same level of success as last year's documentary success story, Touching The Void.

Jerome Mazandarani





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