This is one of those films where I watched it once and thought it was beautiful, and then I watched again, and again, and each time I’m more fascinated with how the filmmakers did what they did. I feel like I have more questions than observations, but here are a few things I’ve noticed:
1. Particularly in the opening, they weren’t afraid to use dark, high-contrast shots. This obscures the details of the cliffs, which forces us to focus on the movement and power of the ocean swells.
2. There aren’t many close-ups in this piece, and I noticed in particular that there are few close shots of the surfers’ faces. Like the dark lighting, this an artistic choice that I think you have to be very deliberate about committing to, but it works well here because the film is about human bodies responding to the ocean. Which is big. Thus, tension and emotion are generally more apparent in long and medium shots (although, extreme close-ups are still used when they communicate well–e.g. individual water drops when the narrator is talking about how cold the ocean is).
3. I like the series of jump cuts at 3:10. They give us a small narrative sequence but maintain that feeling you get with adrenaline, that time doesn’t pass normally.
4. 4:48!! Hands-down my favorite shot in the piece. Is it kind of jerky because it was filmed with normal-speed film, and then drastically slowed down? Again, this is a decision that we’d normally avoid, but that in this case is deliberately applied and befitting in that it contributes to a feeling of sublimity.
5. I love that the editors cut the shot at 3:37 before the wave broke. The suspended tension supports the narrator’s comment about “waves with weight.”