Big screen allows for savoring

Filmmakers strove to make `Deep' more evocative

July 29, 2005|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Over the phone from London, co-director Alastair Fothergill takes pains to differentiate seeing wildlife footage on a TV series like Blue Planet and witnessing it in a theater with a big screen and a stereo sound system.

"A TV episode is actually a more high-pressure environment," Fothergill explains. "For example, in its pace and its point of attack, the jellyfish sequence that comes in the middle of Deep Blue is relatively gentle, light and shaded. TV watchers wouldn't have sat still for it. But in the context of the movie, people enjoy the change in mood and rhythm of this slower portion, and the ability to savor the intricacy of the structures."

Deciding to make the film evocative rather than informational, with minimal narration (read for America by Pierce Brosnan), released the filmmakers' ingenuity in other ways, too.

"We recorded as much as we could, but it's very difficult to do it on or in the water, even with special hydrophones. So we created a lot of sounds for the creatures of the deep ocean. Like some of those amazing jellyfish that look like spaceships -- we went for sounds that would evoke an alien mood. Is it artificial? Well, nobody knows. We do know that it's not a silent world down there."

Fothergill credits composer George Fenton, whose credits include Dangerous Liaisons, for helping "create the emotion of different habitats -- from the exhilaration of the open ocean to the massive waves breaking on the beach to the odd feeling of floating down into the deep in a submersible."

Fenton recorded the score with the renowned Berlin Philharmonic, marking the first time that fabled orchestra had done a feature film track.

"One of the best things about using a classical orchestra," says Fothergill, "is that it has no regional associations, because the story of the ocean is a global, not a regional story. We decided to have the simple narrative hook of the familiar coast where we all went as children and then progress into the unfamiliar open ocean and deep; after that we just went for sequences that would be most emotional and powerful."

Among the major breakthroughs for this film were the first-ever images of whales feeding and albatross diving for their food. And because deep-sea creatures never see light, the camera lights revealed their true -- or would that be untrue? -- colors.

"But it was all completely natural," says Fothergill. "I was told that the animators at Pixar used footage from Blue Planet for inspiration. We hope the families who went to Finding Nemo will attend Deep Blue and feel they're going back to the source!"

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