Streaming on Netflix is My Friend at the Bottom of the Sea – My Octopus Teacher, a surprising and fascinating film, a chronicle without anxiety or sensationalism of how a man in crisis has changed his life thanks to an encounter with an octopus. Also able to teach us something.
Streaming on Netflix it’s available My friend at the bottom of the sea – My Octopus Teacher, a surprising and fascinating film, a chronicle without rhetoric or sensationalism of how a man in crisis has turned his life around thanks to an encounter with an octopus.
Craig Foster and the Kelp Forest
Craig Foster he is a big, fat South African man, with two blue eyes as good and deep as the sea, who has spent his life making documentaries on nature. At one point, however, Craig went into crisis: whether it was fatigue, burn-out or a simple midlife crisis, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that he could no longer be near a camera, or an editing program, and that his relationship with his son was also suffering from this crisis, which also affected his role as a father.
Instead of finding a mistress, or buying a motorcycle (which he may already have), or many other more or less stupid and shareable things that men do when they find themselves a bit mired in the sands of their lives, Craig Foster has decided to return to an old passion of his: diving. Breathless. Without a wetsuit, despite the cold of the ocean.
Yes, because Craig Foster lives in a house that we barely glimpse but which we immediately understand is beautiful, also because it overlooks one of the most beautiful coasts in the world, that of False Bay, close Cape Town in South Africa. From his home, a few steps from the Atlantic Ocean, Foster began diving every day, carefully observing the underwater habitat of the large kelp forest (which would be giant algae) in front that he had decided to return to explore, such as when he was a child.
The acquaintance with the octopus
Among fish of all kinds, crustaceans and other creatures, to capture Foster’s attention, in the first days of his dives, was a specimen of female octopus. Octopuses are extremely fascinating animals, capable of extraordinary things from the physical point of view (from mimesis, to the ability to change their shape, to become very thin to escape through tiny cracks, passing through that of regenerating the tentacles that are cut by predators) as from the intellectual one: and to get an idea of the intelligence of octopuses (animals that “think” with their whole body, including tentacles, and not only with the brain) and their abilities, you can read a nice article published some time ago on International It is entitled The consciousness of the octopus, or even better the essay by Peter Godfrey-Smith “Other minds”, published by Adelphi.
Or, even more simply, as a first approach, see My friend at the bottom of the sea, the surprising documentary that tells of Craig Foster’s dives and the incredible relationship he has built over a year with that octopus that had captured his attention since the beginning of his explorations.
My Friend Under the Sea: The original movie trailer
Men and octopuses
Directed by Pippa Ehrlich e James Reed, two other documentary filmmakers on the animal world, My friend at the bottom of the sea (which in the original is My Octopus Teacher, or “My octopus teacher”) is not simply a documentary on these incredible and surprising cephalopods. Indeed, what we are told about octopuses, their habits and their abilities in this film is almost incidental, a corollary to a different, unusual and surprising narrative core.
The title, alone, has already made the main spoiler: why My friend at the bottom of the sea tells the incredible story of true friendship that, day after day, with constancy, mutual curiosity and effort, Craig Foster and that female octopus from the kelp forest in front of her house they managed to squeeze. And how through the relationship with the animal, and the observation of its habits and behaviors, Foster managed to emerge from the bad times he had been through, and even to strengthen the bond with his son.
Foster’s story and teaching us all
The most cynical of you will have already cracked a mocking smile, I know.
Put simply like this, in black and white, the story of the friendship between a big man and an octopus (even more female) might seem a bit ridiculous, and at least rhetorical.
But I also challenge them to get to the end of My friend’s 85 minutes at the bottom of the sea without getting involved, amazed and fascinated by what they saw. Perhaps, as has happened to many – reading the internet to believe – even moved at the end of the story.
The calm and relaxed voice of Foster, his look so clean, the extraordinary underwater images and that rhythm so soft and natural that for obvious reasons the film has, transport the viewer into a bubble inside which you can reach moments of reflection, introspection and awareness that are so much the more necessary the more, in our everyday life, we are subjected to stress, anxieties and worries.
Craig Foster he found a lost balance by establishing a contact with the natural world as he had never had, despite his profession. See My friend at the bottom of the sea it may not have the same cathartic and profound effect it had on its protagonist, but it can certainly give us glimpses, flashes and moments of that experience in a strong and sincere way, capable of illuminating an idea, perhaps a path, and to convince that yes, really another way of living and thinking and acting is possible. Even without going to dive shirtless in person in the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.