YEAR: 1964; DIRECTOR: Jacques-Yves Cousteau; WRITERS: J. Cousteau, James Dugan
Aside from winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and starting with the same two words, Le monde sans soleil („World Without Sun“) has nothing much in common with the previously discussed Cousteau film Le monde du silence („The Silent World“).
While the latter is a fairly interesting depiction of ocean science in the mid-fifties, accompanied by beautiful underwater shots, the film I'm writing about today both has beautiful underwater shots and a story, even conflicts.
The most interesting of these is the question whether, and under what circumstances, man is able to survive deep down under the surface of the sea - and even more interestingly; what impacts such a way of living has on the human body and soul. Cousteau and his scientists have dived deeper since their last journey on film, and instead of taking small trips to the mysterious silent world without sun, they now spend most of their time in it. The "Continental Shelf Station Two" has become their home for the next 30 days, and during that time the men themselves grow more and more silent.
As in The Silent World, a few enviromentally and morally questionable incidents can be found in World Without Sun, but generally it seems Cousteau has grown more aware of that problem. His fear for shark remains just as strong though, and each time one of the "beasts" enters the surrounding waters, you can expect to hear creepy tunes á la Spielberg's Jaws.
Another of the scientists admits in one scene, that he is afraid of sleeping at night, for he feels he is surrounded by creatures that seem to origin from his worst nightmares. Personally, this was one of my favourite scenes, at least for its great narrative, cutting from the mentioned scientist to shots of those night-active and wondrous creatures that are then accompanied by a monologue of the man. It's hard to explain, but I really liked it.
Generally, fewer of the scenes seemed as artificial as in the first film, though I don't know the cause for this. Maybe Cousteau listened to his critics. But of course most of the scenes don't even have any potential to seem artificial, as the main part of the footage consists of underwater shots or shots of the crew that don't include dialogue. I loved the diving parts - often it felt like the men became real creatures of the sea, as elegantly and casually as they were swimming around with the fish. It made me want to learn diving too, so I understand that the film caused an intense interest in sport diving.
If you don't know much about Cousteau yet and would like to start out with something you most likely are going to enjoy, I recommend watching World Without Sun. The same goes for anyone interested in documentaries, as this one really is a must-watch, not only for winning the Oscar.
World Without Sun is my clear favourite of Cousteau's filmic work until now and I am very surprised about its quality after the more or less disappointing The Silent World.
The final frame
If I caught your interest, read the first post in the Cousteau Mini Blogathon: Le monde du silence