Deep sea freediver resurfaces with new short film

Posted on 7 February 2019

Guillaume Néry, his partner Julie Gautier and the pair’s semi-aquatic film crew ventured into the deep blue and resurfaced with a new short film – One Breath around the World.

Néry is a freediving champion from Nice, France who specialises in deep sea freediving. He’s been able to dive as deep as 125 metres with just one breath.

In the film, which is 12 minutes long (including credits), Néry starts out on a pebbled beach on the French Riviera. You see him clad in a metallic blue wet suit before submerging himself in the water.

Watching One Breath Around the World is almost like watching something from a science fiction fantasy, and Néry is uncannily at home in the deep blue expanse.

His solitary figure explores and swims by the sunken underwater ruins of Yonaguni Island in Okinawa, Japan, a site which looks like an ancient city with stone temples. He is a lone wanderer encountering history and the silent passage of time. In some parts, he can be seen walking on the seabed or the rocky ruins’ plateaus almost effortlessly as though the water isn’t holding him back. At other times, he visibly struggles as he attempts to ‘run’ on the bottom of the ocean, or in rocky trenches, his body practically horizontal.

Another almost eerie aspect of this film is its soundtrack, which is a mixture of ambient sounds and synthesised electronic beats which gives it that otherworldly, sci-fi atmosphere.

This film was shot in a number of spectacular marine environments, including Mauritius, French Polynesia and the Philippines.

Néry is seen at one point in the film swimming right under the ice of a frozen body of water in Finland, and all of this transmitted with incredible, surreal clarity as he bobs along beneath and then propels himself back down into the cold and dark depths.

In the next scene, he appears to waft through underwater caves in the Yucatán in Mexico. Here, Nèry floats among the gnarled, twisted branches at the bottom of the underground river at Cenote Angelita, a natural sinkhole in the Yucatán Peninsula . Here the stark contrast of dark tree branches and the murky sandiness of the sinkhole gives the scene a spooky appearance as the footage cuts from frozen Finland to Mexico, and the Frenchman floats up, seemingly from below.

Néry swims with blue whales. Credit: supplied.

The scenery becomes more and more captivating. Where before Néry cut a solitary figure in the blue, watery habitat, as the film goes on, more and more marine life starts to appear in the scenes. He swims comfortably among tens of sharks in the deep, but the most arresting moment is that of him approaching a pod of whales.

The short film has elicited many emotional responses, if not for the incredible scenes and close-up footage and interactions with sea life, then for the very end of it, where as the diver is approaching the water’s surface and the deep blue fades, he emerges almost into a foreign world: his pebbled hometown beachfront on the French Riviera. The camera – most likely a drone – pans slowly out and across the beach dotted with sunbathers, and reveals terracotta roofs and an alpine backdrop. After the atmospheric music and blue scenery, one almost bristles at the contrasting mundane life on land.

This is not the first short film to come from Néry. In 2010, he attracted a huge following after releasing the short film Free Fall, where he can be seen jumping into the world’s deepest blue hole in the Bahamas. Since then the couple has also directed the short film Narcosis (2012) about the visions Néry had while deepwater diving, as well as Ocean Gravity (2014) in French Polynesia, under their film company ‘Les Films Engloutis’, which roughly translates to ‘sunken or submerged films’ in French.

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