What “My Octopus Teacher” Made Me Feel

I never thought documentaries about animals or nature would make me cry–not until I watched My Octopus Teacher. At one point, I had to pause watching just to cry my eyes out.

As someone who is not good in swimming and does not have any experience in diving, and as such, has not seen nor felt the real beauty and serenity underwater, watching this documentary opened my eyes, warmed my heart and piqued my curiosity all at the same time.

I learned so many new things about the octopus, that it can adapt its color to the environment, it can “walk,” it can grow back its arm, it plays with the fish, it can sense danger and can make fast decisions to survive, and the female octopus dies after mating. I was amazed when it covered itself with kelp leaves when it was eluding the pursuing shark.

The most fascinating thing about the octopus was the way it covered its body with corals, shells, stones, and other sea materials close to it and then appeared to be a stationary stone — a scene that was shown at the start and towards the end. I think that was extremely beautiful. The latter is even more significant as you come to realize why she did that when she first encountered Craig (the filmmaker) and how deep their friendship had become.

Watching the documentary made me realize how fragile an octopus is. What Craig said that octopus is like a snail without its protective shall never entered my mind before. Instead, I imagined them, even the small ones, to be scary creatures that will wrap their eight tentacles around me should I ever come near their den. (Just check films featuring giant octopus or giant squids or creatures of the deep and you’ll get the idea.)

Also, the documentary was shot mostly in the giant kelp forest. Seeing the stillness of the water, the loveliness of wild nature not often featured in tourism promos, and the sea creatures living in harmony with one another (with occasional heart-pounding moments when the sharks search for their prey) made me realize that being underwater could feel as safe and as peaceful as when you’re in the forest surrounded by trees, in front of a waterfalls marvelling at its sound and beauty, or seated on the grass while watching the play of colors in the sky during a sunset.

A scene from the documentary when the diver is in the midst of the kelp forest

My Octopus Teacher attests that nature has healing powers. It can calm the mind. It can quiet the soul. The documentary also tells the story of the emotional turmoil the narrator (filmmaker) underwent and how his friendship with the octopus helped him put his life into perspective and have a better relationship with his son.

This documentary is multi-awarded but it was not the awards that led me to select it (among many Netflix shows) one fine Saturday afternoon in June when I was feeling quite blue. I chose it on impulse, to watch something different and calming. I’m glad I did. I loved every minute of the one hour and 25 minutes I spent on the film. Like the filmmaker, I connected with her too. ❤ Like him, I also learned lessons about life and the Earth.

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