Thursday, March 4, 2021

Movie with Abe: My Octopus Teacher

My Octopus Teacher
Directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed
Released September 7, 2020 (Netflix)

People bond with each other for a variety of reasons and in a number of ways. Conversation and shared interests are two of the strongest draws because they provide confirmation that both parties do in fact want to do the same things. Animals that aren’t able to communicate in the same language as humans can provide a particular comfort in part because they aren’t able to ask questions or voice their own opinions but instead offer the kind of unconditional love that another person simply can’t. That notion is taken to an entirely new level in one of this year’s Oscar finalists for Best Documentary.

South African filmmaker Craig Foster spends his days diving in the kelp forest and encounters an octopus. As he comes back each day to capture footage of the octopus, a relationship begins to form between the two of them, with the octopus becoming consistently more comfortable with this human diver as he witnesses her daily activities, which include malicious sharks invading her space and threatening her livelihood. Foster returns every day for a year to check in with his new friend and observe how she is engaging with the world.

This film falls into a specific category of documentary, one that doesn’t utilize cue cards or interviews to assist the construction of its narrative. Instead, it requires an intense focus from audiences on the visually mesmerizing content it provides. Not everyone will be as drawn in by and taken with this octopus and her underwater habitat as Foster, but observing his fascination with her is almost compelling enough in its own right. Yet it still does require a tremendous amount of concentration since there are a few fast-paced events that actually occur within this film’s eighty-five-minute runtime.

As far as nature documentaries go, this one benefits from having an enthusiastic speaking protagonist, one who is able to share his love for this field of study and also his developed affinity for this nonhuman creature, which is clearly felt through the way in which he engages with and cares for her. Those with even a passing interest in marine biology should find this film riveting, while those with a connection to a pet may see parallels by the film’s end to their own relationships that might not have been apparent at its start. This film is certainly a formidable diary of life on this planet that people rarely get to see so up close, and while it may not be enthralling enough to attract everyone, it does have tremendous scientific and artistic value.


No comments: