Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s The Silent World

Today on Discovery Enterprise we present two Jacques-Yves Cousteau documentary classics “The Silent World” and “The Silent World Revisited.”

The Silent World (French: Le Monde du silence) is a French documentary film released in 1956, co-directed by the famed French oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau and a young Louis Malle. The Silent World is noted as one of the first films to use underwater cinematography to show the ocean depths in colour. Its title derives from Cousteau’s 1953 book The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure.

The film was shot aboard the ship Calypso. Cousteau and his team of divers shot 25 kilometers of film over two years in the Mediterranean Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, of which 2.5 kilometers were included in the finished documentary.

The film later faced criticism for environmental damage done during the filmmaking. In one scene, the crew of Calypso massacre a school of sharks that were drawn to a whale’s carcass. In another, Cousteau uses dynamite near a coral reef in order to make a more complete census of the marine life in its vicinity. Cousteau later became more environmentally conscious, involved in marine conservation, and was even called “the father of the environmental movement” by Ted Turner.

The Silent World was the first of Cousteau’s two documentary films to win an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the other being World Without Sun in 1964. The film also won the Palme d’Or award at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival, being the only documentary film to win the award until Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 repeated the feat in 2004.

In 2004, the Cousteau Society returned to the Red Sea with the Cousteau ship Alcyone to explore again the sites where Jacques Cousteau shot the films “Silent World” and “World without Sun” and pay homage fifty years later. This extraordinary expedition entitled Le Monde du Silence Revisité (Silent World Revisited) has been filled with adventure, emotions. The documentary “World Without Sun” chronicles Jacques Cousteau’s work on Continental Shelf Station Two, or “Conshelf Two“, the first ambitious attempt to create an environment in which men could live and work on the sea floor.

The Silent World and The Silent World Revisited

The following play list contains both film classics.


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