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18. Le Grand Bleu (The Big Blue)

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There are two versions of this film, a longer version with music by Eric Serra and a shorter US version with music by Bill Conti. These are two completely different films. The longer version of generally reckonned to be a masterpiece. The shorter is a rather tedious shambolic mess.

We meet Enzo and Jacques as two little boys on the Greek coast. They are not friends, but they have a powerful bond in their love of free diving.

The years go by. Enzo and Jacques grow up and lose contact.

Johanna (Rosanna Arquette), a claims adjuster in an insurance office, has to go to Peru on a job. There she comes across Jacques (Jean-Marc Bar) now a young man who works for a group of scientist. He dives for several minutes into an ice cold lake while the scientists monitor his bodily reactions. Jacques is an unusually taciturn Frenchman with a dolphinlike heart rates and oxygen consumption.

Joanna, taken with Jacques, follows him around the world championship diving circuit. She fabricates a story so that her company will let her go to Italy, where she can see Jacques again.

Jacques and Enzo (Jean Reno) are still competitive - especially Enzo the world free diving champion, who knows that Jacques is his only real competition.

Johanna and Jacques become friends, but Jacques cannot commit himself to her. This is a man who carries photographs of his dolphin family in his wallet, yet also realises that this is not entirely normal.

Joanna wants to have Jacques' baby, but Jacques is drawn to his true home, the sea. The rivalry between Jacques and Enzo pushes both men to dangerous depths.

This is the visual equivalent of poetry - deep, unsettling poetry. It has the narritive grip of the Ancient Mariner and takes us into crystal blue uncharted waters and drags us down to dark unplumbed depths.

The film is about belonging - about our natural desire to be where we feel at home. At one level it's about an atavistic desire to return to our ancient past as marine mamals. Who does not feel empathy for dolphins. But it also works as a parable - the choice between the wide open mysterious sea and a mundane family life.

The story, according to Besson, was inspiredby a three-hour ride with a dolphin during his boyhood.


Genre: romance, drama.
119 min. Extended version 168 min. Original cut in France:132 min.
France:185 min (director's cut)
Country: France / USA / Italy
Director: Luc Besson
Writing credits:
Luc Besson (story & screenplay)
Robert Garland (screenplay)
Marilyn Goldin (screenplay)
Jacques Mayol (screenplay)
Marc Perrier (screenplay)
Produced by
Monty Diamond — line producer: NY
Patrice Ledoux — producer
Claude Besson — executive producer (uncredited)
Luc Besson — co-producer (uncredited)
Bernard Grenet — line producer (uncredited)
Original Music: Eric Serra
Bill Conti (US version)
Cinematography: Carlo Varini
Colour: Eastmancolor
Sound Mix:
70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)
Dolby SR (35 mm prints)

Rosanna Arquette — Johana Baker
Jean-Marc Barr — Jacques Mayol
Jean Reno — Enzo Molinari
Paul Shenar — Dr. Laurence
Sergio Castellitto — Novelli
Jean Bouise — Uncle Louis
Marc Duret — Roberto
Griffin Dunne — Duffy
Andréas Voutsinas — Priest
Valentina Vargas — Bonita
Kimberly Beck — Sally
Patrick Fontana — Alfredo
Alessandra Vazzoler — La Mamma (Enzo's Mother)
Geoffrey Carey — Supervisor
Bruce Guerre-Berthelot — Young Jacques
Gregory Forstner — Young Enzo
Claude Besson — Jacques' Father
Marika Gevaudan — Angelica
Jan Rouiller — Noireuter
Pierre Semmler — Franck
Jacques Lévy — Doctor
Eric Do — Japanese Diver
André Germe — Philippino Diver
Ronald Teuhi — Tahitian Diver
Rosario Campese — Waiter
Franco Diogene — Receptionist
Tredessa Dalton — Carol
Constantin Alexandrov — Dolphin Trainer
Pierre-Alain de Garrigues — Superintendent
Claude Robin — Taxi Driver
Paul Herman — Taxi Driver in U.S.A
Nicolas Maltos — Diving Coordinator on Platform
Marc Planceon — Paramedic

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