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My Octopus Teacher: What Should We Learn from this Documentary?

My Octopus Teacher has become another year’s biggest moving and heartbreaking nature documentaries. Craig Foster, a diver, has a lovely bond with an octopus he discovers swimming in the water off the shore of his house in South Africa in this Netflix show.

To describe ‘My Octopus Teacher’ a religious adventure would be an exaggeration. The story of ‘My Octopus Teacher’ unfolds on a planet light-years distant, and it feels almost imaginary or magical.

The richness and variety of aquatic life seen in the film is astounding. The documentary, directed by Pippa Ehrlich and starring Craig Foster, is visually stunning but much more so in idea.

The documentary is incredible to see because it depicts a friendship that most of us had no idea was conceivable. Foster and the kelp forest grow closer as he visits each day, and the two create an incredible friendship.

Unfortunately, their loving bond isn’t meant to stay – Foster does his best not to interfere with the octopus’ existence and instead lets nature take its path, gave the movie a heartbreaking conclusion.

My Octopus Teacher: Storyline Synopsis

Craig Foster was relaxing at Simon’s Town, on the Cape Peninsula. He had lived his youth years in this lovely mansion. He goes there in search of a long-forgotten purpose. He begins to free dive in the icy, choppy Atlantic seas.

He notices an Octopus and keeps a close eye on him. He makes it a habit to see this octopus friend every day. Surprisingly, the octopus begins to acknowledge his existence surrounding her.

My Octopus Teacher

Craig Foster becomes a close friend to her. Both of them develop a sense of trust. She swallows his hands and body, seeming completely deranged in his presence. Craig is impressed by the notion that a living creature can exhibit such complex feelings.

He visits his pal virtually every day for a year. He pays close attention to her cunning hunting techniques and how she manages to outsmart a Pyjama shark on the search for her.

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My Octopus Teacher: Does the Octopus Died in the Ending?

Those horrible bloodthirsty sharks. The pyjama sharks that stalk the kelp forest where the octopus dwells, threatening her life day after day, are recognizable to anybody who has watched even fifteen minutes of My Octopus Teacher.

A shark once took the octopus’ entire arm in an assault, yet the octopus was able to regrow one following the terrifying experience.  However, the octopus isn’t always that fortunate. She stays in her lair after mating with another octopus and laying eggs, with no plan of ever leaving as she slowly dies.

My Octopus Teacher

After the eggs hatch and the octopus is out of her den, sitting on the ocean bottom appearing pale and feeble while fish and waste pickers begin to eat on her, the most sad scene in the film occurs. When Foster returns the next day, the octopus’ corpse has been stolen by a big shark, who has hauled her away.

My Octopus Teacher, fortunately, does not finish there. The film ends on a more upbeat note, with a sequence showing Foster & his son diving together again and recognising a little, fragile octopus they believe is the spawn of an old buddy.

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My Octopus Teacher: What Should We Learn from this Documentary?

The lessons of the show are similar to those of philosophist Martin Buber. Buber believed that man frequently misses out on the opportunity to create significant spiritually ties with nature. We consciously identify other living creatures and seem to be able to detect them watching us, as characterized by Buber as ‘I and Thou’ moments.

We develop a strong sense of ourselves as a result of these relationships. Yet, as per Buber, what frequently occurs in the shape of ‘I and It’ moments is the polar opposite. Flora and fauna are frequently perceived as things instead of genuine, living organisms, and are treated as such.

My Octopus Teacher

Foster and Ehrlich show us how these ‘I and Thou’ conversations may have a big influence on each other, and they do it with style. To that end, the film is a strong proponent of the environmentalist ideology, which Foster is a firm believer in.

While Foster breathes life into the film, it is Pippa Ehrlich’s directing that makes it genuinely sing. We see natural wonders thru the Ehrlich’s lens: the octopus gently wraps a tentacle around Foster’s finger, as if formally welcoming him to her world with a single-tentacled handshake; at times, it obediently follows Foster, showing no fear or shyness; it appears to be playing hide and seek with the camera, frequently trying to knock it over.

My Octopus Teacher

Anyone can’t really help but create its own relationship to the mollusc at this stage. Foster, on the other hand, makes it clear that this relationship will be fleeting, considering that octopuses have a lifespan of only a year. This adds a bittersweet taste to the film, but it is required.

Not to be outdone, ‘My Octopus Teacher’s’ filmmaking is a stunner in and of itself. It makes scuba diving in subzero temps appear pleasant and nearly desirable. As though dragging us along for the trip, the cinematography immerses us in the heart of underwater life. The sea flora and fauna, some of which are yet undiscovered to man, seems to be beyond comprehension.

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My Octopus Teacher: Conclusion

Is it possible to have a religious awakening while witnessing somebody else have only one? If that’s the case, audiences are probably to feel the same way. ‘My Octopus Teacher’ is one of the more impressive documentary from Netflix’s upcoming 2020 lineup. It physically and symbolically goes where no other director has gone before.

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