The cult classic by Luc Besson ‘The Big Blue’ was released in 1988. It has two soundtracks, two language versions and two endings. Warning if you haven’t seen it yet – spoiler alert!
It’s a story of a friendship and a rivalry of two divers – Jacques Mayol (consultant of the film) and Enzo Molinari (in real life Enzo Maiorca) – very loosely based on, or rather inspired by, their real lives. Luc Besson, who himself loved diving as a boy, has a cameo in the movie as one of the competing divers. The film, like many early Besson’s films (‘Subway’, ‘Nikita’, ‘Leon’) starts with a moving camera – in this case flying over the water – accompanied by the music of Eric Serra. However, for the American version of the movie a new soundtrack was composed by Bill Conti.
The original film was recorded in English and then dubbed in French. Jean Marc Barr and Jean Reno recorded both language versions but Johana, played by Rosanna Arquette, was dubbed by a French actress Julie Dassin. It was very popular in the world and became one of the most commercially successful films in France but a commercial failure in the States. In spite of having a different, happy ending in the American version, where the dolphin takes Jacques back to the surface. But in the original ending he follows the dolphin and we, the viewers, know that he won’t be able to come back.
This film started a real trend of free diving and popularized this sport. Jacques Mayol, who believed that humans come from the sea and are very much like dolphins, was sure that one day it will be possible for individuals to dive below 200 metres. The current record is held by an Austrian diver Herbert Nitsch at 253 meters. Mayol himself used various yoga and zen techniques to hold his breath underwater and he would achieve a state of apnea by relaxation. Nowadays Wim Hof, known as the Iceman, propagates similar results, including the possibility of opening all the chakras and achieving illumination by swimming in freezing cold water.
But ‘The Big Blue’ is most of all a love story between Jacques and Johana. Enzo warns Johana that Jacques comes from a different planet and even Jacques himself tells her that dolphins are his family. But nothing can stop her from falling in love with him, while listening to his heartbeat. Even the fact that he takes her for a mermaid. She blindly follows him and gives up her life to be with him. He obviously loves her back, but not as much as he loves the sea. In the end she needs to make the ultimate sacrifice and let him go. She realizes that, as Sting was singing, if we love somebody, we have to set them free. It’s part of unconditional love.
In real life Jacques Mayol committed suicide 13 years after the release of the film by hanging himself and taking his last breath away.