Le Monde du Silence (The Silent World) is based on the best-selling book of the same name by famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. Set on board--and below--the good ship Calypso during an exploratory expedition, this feature-length documentary was co-directed by Cousteau and Louis Malle, whose first film this was (Cousteau selected Malle for this assignment immediately upon the latter's graduation from film school). Highlights include a shark attack on the carcass of a whale, and the discovery of a wrecked, sunken vessel. After winning adulation and awards at the Cannes Film Festival, Le Monde du Silence went on to claim an Academy award. Much of the breathtaking underwater camera-work was photographed personally by Louis Malle, who thereafter confined his film-making activities to dry land.
See the underwater world through the eyes the divers of the Calipso and Jacques Yves Cousteau and Dumas.
This was Cousteau's first feature-length documentary film, which won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956, as well as an Oscar for best documentary, and became a true artistic landmark. Fascinating from its first frames, which show five divers descending through the blue expanse of the ocean. Each carries a bright flare, blazing a path of light into the murky ocean depths as a cascade of bubbles rises to the surface in their wake. "This is a motion-picture studio 65 feet under the sea," announces the narrator. These are Cousteau's "menfish" -- divers who, thanks to the aqualung, have gained the motility of creatures born to live in the sea.
They go deeper, to 200 feet, and enter what Cousteau calls "the world of rapture." At this depth, the body cannot process the increased levels of nitrogen in the bloodstream, and divers suffer from "nitrogen narcosis" -- an instantaneous intoxication that, Cousteau tells us, causes the coral to assume "nightmare shapes".
They dive deeper still, to 247 feet, and film the deepest shot ever taken at that time by a cameraman.
The latest precision cameras... the deepest dive yet filmed...' Things change, though. Whereas this was regarded at the time as irreproachable, improving, suitable for classroom bookings, the good Captain Cousteau and his all-male ensemble come across now, in 1998, as an aggravating lot, in their once natty '50s swimwear, amusing themselves by straddling giant turtles and turning them into agonising 'comic relief', or filling the screen with torrents of blood as they slaughter a passing school of sharks ('All sailors hate sharks'). On the other hand, the film-makers' intermittent poetic ambitions are strikingly justified as the cameras explore the wreck of a torpedoed freighter, the commentary becoming an elegy for the lost ship and her crew. The movie has acquired a further dimension as an apprentice work by co-director Louis Malle, though students of his oeuvre will need ingenuity to relate this to anything he made subsequently.
There is some amazing footage on this. The bell of a shipwreck is cleaned to reveal its identity 'The Thistlegorm'. Watch Dumas dancing with a giant grouper. See the team experience narcosis whilst catching lobsters below 60M!
If you have read the book of the same name you will have imagined the excitement and wonder that Cousteau and his team felt during their pioneering expeditions. Now you have a chance to see for yourself the original footage of Cousteau's adventures
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