It struck me that the film Beasts of a Southern Wild, which takes place in a fictional area of Louisiana called “The Bathtub,” needs to be put in conversation with the recent entry of a giant inflatable duck into the bay of Hong Kong, by artist Florentijn Hofman. Its presence changed the way that people experienced scale in the harbor, and became a vehicle for more broadly thinking about interconnection between waters of the world and related environmental issues. After it collapsed, “The duck’s demise reflected the city’s every anxiety: One blogger pondered if it had succumbed to lung disease from the Pearl River Delta’s infamous air pollution. Images of the duck, wearing one of the face masks made ubiquitous here after the 2003 SARS virus crisis, proliferated online. Others wondered if it died from the newest deadly strain of avian flu found in China, which University of Hong Kong researchers have discovered can be both airborne and transmitted to pigs, as reported in Science” (NYT).
What does it mean to think of the world’s oceans in terms of a bathtub? What does this metaphor do?
The Amphibian Man is a 1962 Russian film based on A. Belyev’s novel of the same name. The film is summarized well here, although it diverges quite a bit from the book through the introduction of a central romance plot and new female character. This visually brings out the parallels between the beautiful and somewhat androgynous Icthyander (the amphibian man) and Gutiere, his romantic interest, who is also pursued by a greedy ship captain. Her resistance to marriage and his resistance to capture by the same captain clearly mirror each other.
Just went to see “Life of Pi” and my friend pointed out that it takes on two of the most daunting cinematic subjects, animals and water, at the same time, and does it beautifully. The picture below, of when Pi is staring into one of the pools of the island, is surreal: we can only see the pool–as an eye–staring back at us because of the presence of the tree and Pi as a frame. All of the water imagery is amazing, although the sea was too calm in some scenes to realistically be the Pacific Ocean. But more than that, the film is about the tension sustained between large animals, sea animals, and people: on the boat, a zebra, orangutan, hyaena, and tiger. Outside the boat, flying fish, dolphins, a humpback whale, sharks, jellyfish, bioluminescent plankton. Credit to my friend for noticing, the film also includes the scene on the original book cover, a bird’s eye view of the boat drifting along with all these sea creatures passing under it.