DVD: Living Sea, The (1995)

September 3, 2014 | By


LivingSea_IMAXFilm: Very Good

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras: Good

Label: Image Entertainment

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  June 29, 2004

Genre:  Documentary / IMAX

Synopsis: IMAX documentary on the power and splendor of the Earth’s oceans, and some of its most remote areas.

Special Features:  Making-of Documentary / MacGillivray Freeman Films Trailers




Oscar- nominated for Best Documentary – Short Subjects


MacGillivray Freeman Films built a reputation for top-notch underwater and aerial cinematography in large film formats like IMAX, and The Living Sea manages to offer a good balance of stunning imagery showcasing underwater locations in Bar Harbor, Hawaii, Monterrey, and Palau, while Meryl Streep tackles the narration, and several songs by Sting are remixed and expanded to support the film sequences.

Had the film exclusively relied on these elements, Living Sea would’ve been another visually striking production with a narration distilled to the simplest of words and concepts for the most general of audiences. (Streep’s narration is fine, but as the film wraps up the Palau section, there’s a virtual recap of some prior pontificating which feels more like an editorial boo-boo rather than a recapped statement for unattentive audiences.)

As with Dolphins! (2000), director Greg MacGillivray found a few professionals willing to co-star with their sea creatures of study, or naturally compelling individuals whose own reflections convey more warmth than the average IMAX screenplay. Dr. Judith Connor is seen diving in an isolated lake where non-lethal jellyfish swarm to feed before descending to the depths where a highly toxic chemical mix can poison humans in less than a minute. Equally compelling is Francis Toribiong who tears through the small islands of Palau in his boat with his daughters, and in Bar Harbor an IMAX camera is strapped to a U.S. Coast Guard training vessel, with the filmmakers riding alongside the trainees in one of the most violent batch of ocean waves on record.

MacGillivray also filmed several exciting scenes of surfers in Monterrey (the director is renowned for a series of surfing docs from the late sixties / early seventies), and as with many of the company’s films, there are gorgeous aerial shots where the camera tilts and glides across spiky coastlines and above the surreal green bodies that make up picturesque Palau.

Like the soundtrack to Dolphins! composer / orchestrator Steve Wood fitted Sting’s non-film songs to scenes by remixing certain tracks with orchestral elements, and creating his own theme variations, making Sting’s association with the two IMAX films rather tangential: his songs were used, but he didn’t sit down and write songs for specific scenes. Most of the songs work (“Fragile” is a perfect fit), although some of the extracted lyrics are a little too facile.

Similar to Image’s Dolphins! DVD, extras include various MacGillivray Freeman Films trailers, plus a highly informative making-of featurette which covers most aspects of the production with a special angle on the film’s co-star – the IMAX cameras, and their massive underwater housing. Glimpsed in the featurette is footage that ended up on the cutting room floor, interviews with both filmmakers, the production team (including composer Wood), and Dr. Judith Connor. Additional extras include web links and some bonus interview materials.

The Living Sea is very much a film that needs to be seen on the big screen, but since not all IMAX films are in regular rotation at cinemas, there’s also EOne’s Blu-ray.



© 2014 Mark R. Hasan



External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Soundtrack Album — Composer Filmography
Vendor Search Links:
Amazon.ca —  Amazon.com —  Amazon.co.uk

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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