Film Review: Le Monde du Silence

Le Monde du Silence, or The Silent World, is a 1956 film directed by Jacques-Yves Cousteu and Louis Malle. It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Oscar for Best Documentary. But you know all that.

There are many striking aspects to the film. One is that it is beautifully shot, perhaps the most artistic underwater documentary ever made. Also, scuba diving itself was still in its infancy. The equipment and safety standards were quite primitive by today’s standards. Unfortunately, they also do horrible things to some of the animals, which is probably why it is very hard to get a copy of the movie.

Despite the lack of a modern environmentalist sensibility, the film is probably the most important film in all of diving. For millions, it was the first glimpse at the underwater world. Cousteau and his team were true pioneers, not only old school exploring (which they did), but developing equipment and doing serious research. For the modern viewer, it’s amazing just to see how much sea life there was back then.

I’ve deliberately omitted references to specific scenes. Each is fascinating, and to give away the details would diminish the sheer awe of seeing this film for the first time. Suffice to say, there are whales, dolphins, sea turtles and many, many fish. There are also Frenchmen in speedos, pipes and lots of red hats. It is a documentary of not only the undersea world, but the people who explored it.

I don’t think Cousteau ever matched the brilliance of this film, and his later works became increasingly less shocking as they came to reflect more modern techniques and attitudes towards diving and environmentalism. Le Monde du Silence is where it all started, and of all the undersea documentaries made in the fifty years since, none has been more important.

One Response to “Film Review: Le Monde du Silence”

  1. Film Review: Le Monde Sans Soleil | Les Fruits De Mer Says:

    […] film is from 1964, and diving technology has improved since Le Monde du Silence in 1956. Now there are wetsuits (awesome silver ones) and weight belts. In the lower capsule, at […]