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Film review: The Odyssey at Palace Electric French Film Festival 2017

The Odyssey Cinema Tickets. Credit: Ruby Becker.
The Odyssey Cinema Tickets. Credit: Ruby Becker.

The 28th annual Alliance French Film Festival kicked off in Canberra on March 9 and opened with biopic film, L’Odyssée, or rather, The Odyssey.

The Odyssey is directed by Jérôme Salle and tells the story of Jacques Cousteau – a French man who spent his life devoted to exploring and making films of the sea, innovating underwater technology, and pioneering marine conservation.

The Odyssey is a great depiction of a piece of history that most Westerners probably know little about. It was often referenced in the film that while Americans were trying to conquer the moon, the French were going to conquer the sea. For Cousteau, this mission was everything.

Although audiences get to see his many great achievements in this endeavour, the film also delves into Cousteau’s struggles with his quick succession to fortune and international recognition, and his ego-driven career that lead to many personal and ecological destructions as he attempted to “conquer” the ocean.

The juxtaposition of professional success and personal turmoil was well-depicted in the film as audiences were regularly between shots like of man facing whale, floating in the calm unseen depths of the ocean; to shots above-sea, where man facing son seems more commonplace, but somehow more frantic and challenging than underwater exploration.

Cinematically, it is impressive. There were some very technical and creative shots that diversified the view of the ocean. Audiences truly feel the theme of an odyssey as characters travel far and wide from France to the Antarctic, and everywhere in between.

Although the Odyssey is based on the life of Cousteau, his wife and his sons, and although audiences encounter some very common human themes like greed, growth, and mortality – the overarching matter by the end of the film goes well beyond human-life. Audiences are confronted with what Cousteau and his family saw as the reality of human intervention with ecology and the environment prevail. It is disturbing and tremendously sad as the need for marine conservation was addressed, and even more troubling knowing that this problem still rings true today.

It is bleak, but also motivating to see Cousteau and his sons change the course of their endeavours from conquering the ocean to protecting it.

Overall, The Odyssey is rich in stories of successes, challenges, heartbreaks, and love; all the while delivering a truly great piece of history, and with it – an important underlying message.

The French Film Festival is on at Palace Electric Cinemas until April 4 with 45 different movies on showcase.

By Ruby Becker

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