By Alan Champion


“SHE and HE”: An anthropomorphism

Engaging in a feral, gamesomely, hide and seek, she’s noticed him off from a distance. Sleek, lissomly and, quotidianly, unalluring, her oblong head is greatly out of proportion to her slender, sinewy frame. Large protruding eyes and asperous skin, he’d ne’er notice her. Yet, she, furtively, espies his every movement from inside her shadowy nook – surveying/scrutinizing his fine, auburn locks, muscular appendages, chiseled features, and, penetrating, cerulean eyes. Overwrought, she sighs, sensing his unconscious allurement.

Apprehensive, she doesn’t make a sound as he nears her. She hopes not to frighten him off. Hidden behind verdant overgrowth, her body oscillates as she strains to observe him as he retrieves a small, black box with prismatic lens, which he peers through, while, teetering and steadying himself on the slithery, embankment. She and he bob and genuflect, within the deep’s undulating surge.

Distant, self-involved, he, a middle-age, man of leisure immersed himself to thwart the white-hot, sweltry summer sun, to adventure in, and discover his contiguous, exotic terrain. Tall, stalwart, comely, he’s a family man, known to be stoically reserved and taciturn; he’s fathered a small boy, but, laments his lack of affection – a remnant or relic of past relations with his father, and his father’s father. He submerges himself, deeper, yet, deeper within the Delphian, aqueous sphere, as if to eschew/abscond the overwhelming obligations and the responsibilities of progenitorship.

Yet, she doesn’t move towards him, but, remains within the confines of her cloistered den, titillated on/fixated by his sensuality, and declamatory gesturing; and seafaring/ globetrotting exploits. She is stirred, aroused and curious, but refuses to make her presence known. After all, they are different…

Although she’s been known for her precociousness, perspicacity and celerity, which have served her well – beset in her world of barbaric predators – she is circumspect and timorous, perhaps, the victim of a broken heart. Vigilant, discerning, yet, insulating, she awaits his frequent layovers and outstays.

Albeit, their sagacity, they both feign/attitudinize a guileless, pubertal juvenescence, indulging in a frenzied game of “Cat and Mouse,” whereupon, she bobs her head above her rocky asylum, whenever he turns away from her direction; and, whenever he scrutinizes or probes her lair/hideaway, she’ll either pretend not to notice or  wince/cower within her cubbyhole/sanctum until he returns to the upper-world – the dyad continues its curiously cryptic dance of hide and seek or perchance, foreplay, for weeks, until, she, spellbind and overtaken by amatory urges, throws all caution to the wind, and emerges from her den, alighting, within his proximity. Stupefied/dazed, the anomalous duo marvel at one another, until, she reaches out, tenderly, touching/cosseting his arms, chest and face, ever cautiously, awaiting his response.

He is inquisitory, bemused and stupefied – he is transfixed and immobilized, but induces/sanctions her to have her way with him. She touches every inch of his muscular frame, affectionately cosseting and entangling her body within his. Her touch is unorthodox, an exoticism, aphrodisiac. It is riddled with tiny, suctioning pores, which, curiously espy, pull at, suck and stroke his every portal/scintilla of his  epidermis, sending him into rhapsodic, intoxicating, jittery temblors of sheer exultation.

Although, he feels her sensuous, yet, slimy appendages entwine with his, he doesn’t reciprocate, and remains taciturnly detached, as he is a married man. Yet, stupefied, he frantically seeks her out, diurnally. The dyad rendezvouses routinely, and, in time, they both begin to their show their affection, touching, via, caressing and stroking each other – it, being, their only mode of communiqué – albeit , its utterances, his language is exotic to her, while, hers is heterodox and alien to him. And, cognizing this potential impediment, she, strategically inveigles, lures and entices him, via, her dexterous application of captivating/astounding polychromatic make-up, ashen powder/rouge, iridescent eye coloring and scintillating lipstick to accentuate her recherché aspect, and svelte frame, while, concomitantly, sporting her elongated, tentacles – variously, receptive to touch, vision, or to the smell or taste of particular foods or threats – as stylized, tight braids and/or dreadlocks…

Although many would deem her atrociously repellent and, repulsive, he is smitten by her gentility, grace, and aberrant, pulchritudinous aspect, and, as they, lissomly waltz to the sweetly serenades of the wind, as it gently stirs upon their aqueous bailiwick, in subtle crosscurrents, as she – an “ugly duckling” by human standards of beauty – gracefully promenades in a monarchical/baronial fashion, she, effusively whispers, the avouching, mellifluous lyrics of West Side Story’s, “I Feel Pretty” – “I feel pretty, oh so pretty, and, pity any girl who isn’t me tonight. See the pretty girl in the he mirror there; such a pretty face, such a pretty dress, such a pretty smile, such a pretty me… For, I’m loved by a pretty wonderful boy…” ~ Stephen Sondheim.

Albeit, taken aback by the rapid-fire, evolvement of this aberration, he captures their illicit dalliance with his camera, which she gradually disregards. And, as he espies her in her liquefied world, he forgets their differences, focusing in on her comparative, eccentricities, quintessence, and trusting nature.

Ever lissomly, shift, adroit, she outsmarts, outdistances, and elides predators, and, opportunely exploiting her demiurgic astucity, camouflages within makeshift/obfuscated mounds, ingeniously shrouded by of heaps found objects, resembling an ultra-modernist, masterpiece. Once, as she is savagely attacked, directly in front of him, and, loses one of her appendages, he restrains himself from coming to her rescue – he is beholden to Charles Darwin’s, Theory of Natural Selection, wherein, the fittest endures. Providentially, she darts to land to outwit her carnivore/beast of prey. And, she forgives him…

The lovers meet in the sea, daily, whereupon, they wonder and commingle amongst its copious coral wreaths/beds, and towering/lush, kelp forests, while, entangling within its kaleidoscopic bio-diversified, vast ecosystem.

Months after their affair began, on one particular, sweltering, August day, he entered her saline habitat, in search of his beloved, but, only to find her holed up in her cavernous den; he tries, futilely, to get her out to fraternize with him, but, she, adamantly refuses. Yet, upon further investigation, and, to his astonishment/bafflement, he espies/discerns, yet, another male in the cave, nestled by her side. And, as the green-eyed, jaundiced monster of covetousness rears its ugly head, he attempts to vacate the craggy freehold, but, her fleeting, yet, fulsome, amatory gaze, stops him in his tracks.

Of course, her paramour isn’t as comely or sagacious as him, and, although he takes comfort in this incongruity, he realizes/acknowledges the fact that he is married, with a family, just above the watery surface, and, that, as their relationship is but, impermanent, it’s only right that she find someone to love her in his absence. Yet, she’s ne’er questions him about his marriage or infidelities, as she’s accepted their fate, and its implausibility. And, although he remains indomitable and persistent in his daily visits, she doesn’t emerge from her den until weeks later, when, she’s, miraculously, surrounded by slathers of dwarfish fry, who, encircle him, convinced he’s their progenitor.

Following her parturition, she becomes weaken and enfeebled; her colorful palette morphs into ghostly, ashen shades – she is immobilized. Constrained by time – within, such a brief life-cycle, she, devotedly, spends them safeguarding her hatch… Yet, ensnared in her den, she attempts to glide towards him, but, as he reaches out to her, she is eviscerated by a predator. Gone in a flash…

It’s the last time they’d see each other, and her demise affects him, disproportionally. Initially, melancholic, distraught and withdrawn, he heals in time; and soon, he returns to her verdurous, kelp forest, amongst its diversified species/flora, and, although, he is disencumbered by the pain of her loss, he muses/reminisces about her…

Although their affair lasts, but, a year, he emerges as  a  changed man – she’s affected and altered his perceptions about life, and its fragilities, love, fatherhood, and giving of himself; and, albeit, their peculiarized differences – she’s a scaly, ectothermic, octopus, and he’s a mammalian, human being – a direct causatum of their interactions, is his forging of a closer bond with his son, who, gets to hang out with him, and, serendipitously finds a minuscular, newborn, fry, which they speculate to be one of her offspring – alongside a renewed intrigue, respect and sense of wonderment for the sea/earth, and its varied life forms, coupled with a newfound commitment to inform/sensitize denizens throughout the globe about our earth’s biodiversity, and its fragile, vulnerable ecosystems – a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system.

You guessed right, it’s My Octopus Teacher – a stunning, sumptuous, affecting chronicle – featuring/starring, headliners – an lissomly/diaphanous, common octopus and, documentary filmmaker, naturalist, and founder of the Sea Change Project, diver, Craig Foster – which, Providence or fate brings together – and, quite intimately, in this unsurpassed, picturesque, account of their rendezvouses/sojourn into a surrealist, otherworldly, majestic aqueous realm/sphere – the ocean -within a South African kelp forest – which covers 71%  of our earth.

Erogenous, sybaritic, a modern day tale of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story or Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast, wherein, differences induce/incite circumventing barriers, prejudices and adversarial foes in the upper world, but, herein, in the lower world, immersed within her vacuous estuary/loch, her neighbors impassively marvel at their unorthodoxy, yet, unaroused/apathetic, dart/saunter by, imperviously, without judgment, signaling a new world order to be emulated by the upper world we imbue. An implausibly utopian, phantasmagoric world; a saunter through a verifiable Oz, our protagonists’ quixotic romance, tacitly plays itself out – against all odds, within a Delphian, mirage-like backdrop/mise en scene, where all is naturally, but, carefully, harmoniously curated/orchestrated – a paradisiacal, water world/Garden of Eden, yet, an  impermanent, malleable, susceptible world with erratic/unstable vicissitudes, which can change, in a matter of seconds, into a ferocious labyrinth/melange, brimming in chaotic/ inchoate bloodshed, with profusions of flesh, bones, viscera, and, floating, gutted, cadavers.

Yet, it is our protagonist’s innocence, childish curiosity, and longing that compels us to suspend our disbelief – our predisposed perspicacities and inculcation, to embrace this  unfolding, otherworldly, dalliance between what some fathom, as natural enemies – in order to savor and sanction its chimeric, fairy-tale’s existence. Yet, no fairy tale or apologue – in spite of all, it is a documentary or cinéma vérité – an unsparing, ten-year, account of an unwonted, serendipitous, manifestation/spectacularity.

And, correspondingly, the perfect/ultimate antidotal tonic, elixir and catharsis to counteract/balance an abominable year, brimming in anxiety-provoking, perplexing, immobilization; and, nightmarishly delimiting, restrictions, constraints and stringent mandates, akin to: containment, shutdowns, curfews, quarantining, mask-wearing, social distancing – and, impotently, watching hundreds of thousands succumb to a grisly, sepulchral virus – a year of climaxes, and recharging, our depleted thresholds, with no end in sight.

My Octopus Teacher’s camera work is inimitably stunning, providing excruciating close-ups of the ecodiverse terrain within the South African kelp forest, wherein, fish, mollusks, dolphins, seals, walruses, whales, crustaceans, bacteria, sea anemones and many others life forms, coexist, synergistically/symbiotically, within the pacific depths of the sea – which, can also be volatile, changing in a drop of a hat. Extemporaneous and impromptu shots capture the silent, tranquility of an ecosystem rarely espied by man. An absorbing and engrossing, kaleidoscopic, panorama of a multihued, multifarious environment with nuanced, vicissitudes, within, a completely diametric lifestyle to those humans; it is the world from whence we evolved, thus, there’s an organic kinship – and, as we continue to deplete our food chain, water supply, and landscape – a world, we may, one day, have to turn to as our primary reference, for its synergism/symbiotism.

My Octopus Teacher, a 2020 Netflix Original documentary, was agilely/dexterously captured by cineaste/lensman, Roger Horrocks – who, engaged, hand-held, Steadicams, alongside, footage, culled by Craig Foster, who, started filming this engrossing, masterpiece in 2010 – whose, quick-witted, sumptuous, virtuosic, underwater filmmaking/cinematography, unfolds/portrays a hidden, majestic/sublime world, inhabited by kaleidoscopic colors, shapes, textures, sounds, and, endearing fauna and flora, rarely witnessed, let alone, touched, by humankind – a pristine, pacific, equilibrium/ecosystem in the midst of modification/mutation, due to mankind’s waste, exploits and disregard for his environment, engendering, annihilative/cataclysmic climate change – via, diagonal/oblong compositions, natural lighting, stunning camera angles, absorbing continuity, and cohesive editing.

Directors, Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed bring a discerning sagacity and sensitivity to the, capricious, forging, bond/relationship between Craig Foster and an anonymous cephalopod/mollusk as it unfolds in a South African kelp forest. An upside down or unbeknown/unascertained, water world with its own set of values, rules and order, Ehrlich and Reed had no idea how their unscripted, yet, pioneering, “tour de force,” documentary would materialize; after all, it was contingent upon fate/chance – as there were no coached, schooled or mollycoddled pets to embody characters – their protagonists were, but, a man and feral beast – yet, they managed to suspend their disbelief, alongside, their inhibitive experientiality, to direct this inimitable spectacle as it unfolded. A new world order, which, parallelizing our euphoric, ensorcelled, lovers in West Side Story, whereupon, in their initial meeting, all else – the adversarial/riotous, Jets and  Sharks – fade, suddenly, into muted, obscurations of abstractions, enabling, Tony and Maria, (and he and she), to foster and create their own chimerical/quixotic worlds, buttressed by unconditional trust, fidelity, synergy, and, the recognition and acceptance of their divergent/diversified, but, benign love. And, it is this love that transcends every implausibility, to liberate and emancipate us, so that we, too, may throw, all caution to the wind, in altering society, loving, and partaking of its ecstatic bliss and sanctitude.

Rating: 5/5