Have You Watched “My Octopus Teacher”? (My Thoughts)

Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, this weekend we watched a stunning and thought-provoking documentary called “My Octopus Teacher” on Netflix.

If you’re not typically into nature documentaries, this is a little different: My Octopus Teacher isn’t about octopi in general. Rather, it’s about one specific octopus and a filmmaker who spends hours with the octopus every day for a year.

As much as I enjoyed seeing the friendship develop over weeks and months–particularly as the octopus starts to accept the filmmaker as part of her daily life–it was just as fascinating for me to see how wildly creative and intelligent octopi are. It’s beyond cognitive intelligence; their ability to transform into different colors, shapes, textures, and sizes is incredible too. There’s a section about hunting techniques that shows the octopus’s ability to rapidly learn from experience.

The movie has some moments of high drama, as the octopus happens to live near a number of sharks who are very interested in eating her. It’s here that the film made me question a particular decision made by the filmmaker (mild spoiler below):

Basically, there’s a scene midway through the movie where a shark is circling the octopus, who has done her best to hide in a crevice. The filmmaker narrates that he considered scaring away the shark, but he didn’t think it was his place to interfere with nature.

I understand the sentiment from someone who has decided to simply observe wildlife, but that’s not at all what the filmmaker has done with this particular octopus. He’s forged an interspecies friendship. If the octopus were human, he wouldn’t hesitate for a second to help his friend.

So my personal take is that it would be completely appropriate–given the nature of their friendship–for him to interfere in the situation. What do you think? And in general, if you’ve seen this movie (or any other movie about interspecies friendships), what was your takeaway from it?

4 thoughts on “Have You Watched “My Octopus Teacher”? (My Thoughts)”

  1. Man, I thought the same, I’d definitely have defended her. I still remember how surprised I was to see that he didn’t do anything, but at the same time, I totally understood why he did that.
    Also, in the last part, when she drained her life to procreate new octopuses, I couldn’t help crying. It was beautiful to see how he shared his appreciation and respect towards the sea with his son.
    I came to the conclusion that if we ever meet alien life, this guy or another marine biologist should be the one that represents humanity, not a politician for sure!

    Reply

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