Week 4 response: Scientist Exploring Through Forms of Art

The Love Life of an Octopus (1967) by French film maker and scientist, Jean Painlevé. The short film shows the daily life of an octopus;also, more specifically how octopuses mate and fertilize the eggs. Painlevé made the thirteen-minute color film by using 35mm negative and printed film. The vision of the film leaves a strong impression to the audience, yet the sound effect, including Painlevé’s voice and the sound track, helps to emphasize on the octopus’s movements. Painlevé collaborated with a French pioneer of electronic music, Pierre Henry, who composed the soundtrack of the film, in order to complete the making of this documentary on octopuses.

The Frepainlevench film maker showed the society at the time that documentary films could be beautifully made. Even nowadays people can find the film on YouTuBe, Amazon, and other websites. Moreover, artists, scientists, and other social scientists still see Painlevé and his works as a stepping stone of the intersection of art and science. He visualized the unknown science world through films to the society; also, he made the film vivid and mesmerizing through both visual and sound to appeal to a wider range of audience.

Being a biologist, Painlevé recorded and accurately described the life and the natural process of mating of octopuses. Thus, the film has an educational purpose of science to the society because people had very little understanding and knowledge of the species in the ocean at the time. Moreover, he captured the graceful movements of the octopuses through close-ups and different angles, which made the film artistic. The vivid scenes help the audience to learn more about the mysterious species and bring attention to them that octopuses, like humans, communicate and mate in their own ways. The film not only has educational purposes in the past but also brings awareness of the ecology in the present. Although the film was made in the late 60’s, it addresses the beautiful ecology in the ocean which human should be preserve but not damage or alter. Thus, it helps people to pay more attention of the nature and learn the importance of the ecological systems.

Aside from being a symbol of social awareness, the film is a representation of science and art. Painlevé used films, a form of art, as an tool and a media to demonstrate his knowledge of octopus and other underwater species to the common people. Moreover, through the early stage of technology of electronic music, Henry, the composer, helped to make the film more realistic. With the electronic sound effect, the film is less limited by just the visions of the octopus. The audience are more able to feel the movements and actions. Thus, the soundtrack is an important component of the film because it helps the film to be more lively.

Painlevé’s film, The Love Life of and Octopus, shows that art can visualize the mysterious science world and that science has become a form of art. Moreover, technology of music helps enhance the impression of the film to the audience. Therefore, art and science are becoming more interrelated in which art is a tool to visualize scientific facts and science is a media of art for artists to express different social and cultural issues.

-Annie Ho




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