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DVD review: Planet Ocean

April 23, 2013

Film + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


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In essence, Yann Arthus Bertrand’s Planet Ocean is a documentary that aims to show the effects that humans are having on the world’s oceans; that are referred to as the ‘blue lung[s] of the planet’. It opens with a plethora of visual and audio delights, seascapes of waves rolling and calming music provided by Armand Amar, and then the narration begins. It is done in a first person narrative, using ‘I’ to refer to ‘the people’ which I found a little grating, as it seemed self-righteous and slightly patronising, like being addressed as a child being chastised. This was particularly prolific when the phrases ‘I see’ and ‘I don’t see’ were continuously repeated to highlight the differences between the ideal situation for our oceans to be in, and what is currently happening.

Throughout the piece various marine issues are touched upon, such as the imbalance of food chains due to overfishing (one particular example referred to the close extinction of Bluefin tuna, meaning that jellyfish are becoming severely overpopulated), the excessive use of pollutant container ships in order to transport goods across the globe (the amount has tripled in under ten years), and how the human race, the ‘predators of the sea’, have become so addicted to reliance of the earth’s oceans, that we are forcing it to a ceiling, making it reach its ‘biological limit’.

Comparisons were made between food chains naturally occurring in the oceans, and human society, which I thought was an interesting spin to use in order to captivate the audience more. One visual that I found especially astute was when a large fish was shown sheltering underneath the lip of a rock to ‘hide’ from the shoal of sharks that swam over it.

To emphasise the great nourishment that the ocean provides Earth with, green and blue hues were always used to depict the sea as a source of life and nurture, compared with red and yellow tones on land and in city scenes. I thought this was a clever yet subtle method of influencing the viewer to address the crisis at hand.

Josh Duhamel provides the narration for the picture, and to be honest, I found it sounded more like a commercial than a documentary. Considering the hard hitting facts that are being delivered, it was a little dry and his voice lacked sentiment. This meant that towards the end when the campaigning kicks in, I felt little allegiance to him, which changed the way I viewed the facts that were shown in text on screen as the film ended.

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Overall, viewing this documentary clearly defines the problems for the oceans that are in raging progress across the world. The ‘limited capacity for renewal’ currently being experienced results in an unequal natural equilibrium that desperately needs saving. However, much as I can see the intent behind it, I just don’t think that this film has quite the emotional depth required to reach out to the hearts of the nation.

Sophia Miles.

Planet Ocean is out on DVD now.