From the vast stretches of the open ocean to the nocturnal landscapes of the ocean's deepest chasms, Deep Blue captures images of life under the ocean, ranging from the most ridiculous life forms to the majestic giants of the sea. From crabs on the shore to lightbulb-like creatures in the depths, the filmmakers capture a range of life that lives and dies in the silent abyss.
Review by Louise Keller:
Meditative, wondrous, informative and mesmerizing, Deep Blue is a miraculous window into the ocean's circle of life. Stunning images together with music make for a visceral experience, with lavish orchestrations featuring the Berlin Philharmonic and haunting choral pieces. Irish actor Michael Gambon's intermittent narration informs, but never intrudes. He is our guide and our connection. The sea may represent two thirds of our planet, but it is a world that few people have seen. Strange at it may be, outer space has been explored in greater depth than the sea. More gripping than any sci-fi thriller, this journey opens our eyes to the world of the oceans' creatures. They are both predator and prey. It is their story for survival, amidst a kaleidoscope of colour, drama, humour and joy.
Produced by the BBC Natural History Unit, Deep Blue took over 5 years to make, and was shot in over 200 locations including the Bahamas, Brazil, Antartica, Argentina Australia, the Maldives and Mexico.
We watch dolphins gliding effortlessly, swimming, leaping, joyously flying, before creating a feeding frenzy as they dive through formations of hundreds of small fish performing underwater ballet. Seabirds run on the surface of the water before taking off like a 707, and then plummeting deep underwater to make their kill, wings flapping like bats. Meeting sea lions on the shore with their pups is a special moment, the camera focusing on the interaction between these soulful-eyed creatures and their playful young. It is hard to remain unaffected, as killer whales pounce on the pups and fling them into the air, while the mother continues on her journey alone. A baby grey whale is guided by its 30 ton mother when sharks intervene. A polar bear paddles like a dog in icy waters when there is no solid ground, before finding its supper in a fishing hole. Emotions are somewhat different as we watch arctic penguins rocket through the air and land on the icy surface. It is impossible not to laugh as we watch them waddling on two feet with poker expressions. How can we not marvel at these creatures whose males starve for three months as their make their way to their destination.
Swooping from the air, to the land, and to the depths of the ocean, we observe and make the acquaintance of a whole range of creatures - from the colourful coral reefs to the blackness of the bottom of the ocean, where creatures and organisms sparkle and shine with neon-like lights. It gives some kind of perspective when we learn that the deepest point is around the height of Mount Everest and Mont Blanc together.
The creatures from Deep Blue have inspired us in all areas of life. They are more fantastic than any sci-fi creation, and their influence is reflected in fashion, jewellery, art, design and technology. This is a film that will delight all ages, and like Microcosmos and Travelling Birds, is one that fills us with awe. Don't miss it on the big screen.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Astounding images from the deep with a score that accentuates the (almost) silent drama give Deep Blue a haunting visual quality, and some of the life and death sequences are quite moving. But I have a major bone to pick with the BBC Natural History Unit's Alastair Fothergill and Andy Byatt. The extraordinary footage deserves to be put into context; where are we? What are we looking at? What is the meaning of all these images if not to shed light into the abyss of our ignorance of the deep blue?
We get the feeling that a decision has been made "not to encumber" the audience with too much information; "let's not get bogged down" in detail; keep the images "pure and let the music take the audience on a more ethereal journey"...these may have been the phrases used to argue their case. What a pity. So much hard work, so much creative photography by so many (dozens of cameramen), and so many logistical nightmares, all left unlabelled.
The production notes tell us that it was shot on a US$5 million budget and took three years of filming in 200 locations including the Maldives, South Africa, Galapagos, Russia, Canada, USA, Mexico, Antarctica, Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, French Polynesia, Papua New Guinea, Norway, Spain, Japan, New Zealand and Australia with 20 camera crews shooting over 7000 hours of footage sometimes at depths of up to 16,500 feet. Why doesn't the audience get to know some of this? What's the point burying it in the production notes hoping the critics will reveal it?
This rationale may also be connected to the decision to use foley sound effects for fish whooshing by and the like. Is this the BBC?
But there are many good things, too: the fabulous energy of ocean life as captured by swarming fish in mesmerising formations, forming and reforming, morphing into new shapes every second. The hilarious Emperoro penguins landing on their bloated stomachs on the ice, after torpedoing their way up from the depths - and then marching in deadpan formation, arms against their sides, more a waddle than a march, but vaguely in unison. And towards the end, we descend into the darkest abyss for some of the most striking creatures who live in darkness, but emit light.
Death is natural, and the law of the sea jungle applies; we know this intellectually, but the killer whales catching the sealion pups, or the grey whale cub, make for harrowing viewing. All in all, Deep Blue is ravishingly photographed by it's like salad for lunch: we feel the need for a bit more substance.
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DEEP BLUE (G)
NARRATION: Michael Gambon
PRODUCER: Sophokles Tasioulis, Alix Tidmarsh, Nikolaus Weil
DIRECTOR: Andy Byatt, Alastair Fothergill
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mike de Gruy
EDITOR: Martin Elsbury
MUSIC: George Fenton
RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 2, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
VIDEO RELEASE: May 7, 2005