Fascinating and moving.
Those two words come to mind when describing MY OCTOPUS TEACHER (2020), a new Netflix original documentary that tells one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever seen, a story about the relationship between a man and an octopus that had it not been true or documented on film, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.
MY OCTOPUS TEACHER is a documentary by Craig Foster, who says at the beginning of the movie that he had just burned himself out with his work and decided he needed to get away from it all, and so he goes to a remote part of the ocean off the coast of South Africa and begins to dive there in order to seek some solitude.
What he finds there in the underground forest fascinates him, so much so that eventually he decides to bring his camera and return to the work that excited him, filming. And it’s there where he first encounters this octopus, which also fascinates him. He gets the crazy idea of going back every day in search of this octopus in order to chronicle its life.
What happens next surprises him, as the octopus develops a sense of comfort with him, and the next thing he knows, it is reaching out for him, touching him, and suddenly he becomes a part of this octopus’ world, seeing and learning things he never expected would be possible for a human to learn.
MY OCTOPUS TEACHER is an absolutely amazing movie. The story is remarkable and inspiring, and it’s also inredibly emotional, because of the bond Foster develops with the creature. Its life is constantly threatened by the sharks there, and it only lives about a year anyway.
In that year, what Foster learns is nothing short of astounding. Seeing this octopus approach him, touch him, seemingly hugging him, is awe-inspiring. Foster also witnesses the octopus hunting, losing an arm to a shark, only to grow it back again, and in another wonderful sequence, watching it play with a school of fish.
Foster is constantly astounded by the octopus’ intelligence, and he says it’s on par with a dog’s or a cat’s, and it’s not supposed to be that way for a mollusk. And it is incredbily intelligent. The way it escapes from a shark is extraordinary!
It also possesses the ability to blend in with its surroundings, to change its color and shape, and it even walks along the ocean surface, as well as on land when it flees from a shark! It’s right out of a science fiction movie, except it’s not fiction.
The underwater photography is brilliant. Even without the story it tells, the photography alone in MY OCTOPUS TEACHER is worth watching.
But it does tell a story, and that story is phenomenal. The connection between Foster and the octopus is a perfect love story. He kinda falls in love with this creature, as evident by the emotion he shows when he discusses its ultimate fate. Foster discovers a wild creature, and with his calm, silent observation and understanding, he invites the octopus to approach him, and it does, inviting him into a world and a relationshop few humans have ever seen or had.
MY OCTOPUS TEACHER is an outstanding movie, a must-see doctumentary not only because of the underwater world it reveals, but because of it’s powerful message of the relationship between two unlike creatures, a relationship that happens because these two creatures had the patience to approach each other with calm which allowed them to understand and appreciate each other.
If only humans could do the same.