Review: ‘One Breath Around The World’ by Guillaume Néry

In an incredibly unique and beautiful short film record breaking French free diver Guillaume Néry takes you on an underwater journey around the world. With visuals as impressive and inspiring as the near superhuman talents he displays, this video will take your breath away.

Promotional image
Promotional art for the film (via Guillaume Néry’s Facebook page)

One Breath Around The World is a short film by world renowned free diver Guillaume Néry. It is a project that has been in the works for years and aims to show a new side to the sport and the world it takes place in. As the film flawlessly transitions across the globe Néry visits an incredible array of environments, structures and wildlife you’ve probably never seen before. His mastery of not only his breath but his mind will leave you forgetting that he doesn’t actually belong underwater at all. At its roots this film expertly gives us an insight into the marine world whilst reminding us that there are opportunities for us to connect with it.

Who is Guillaume Néry?

Born in Nice the 36 year old was inspired to free dive from an early age by pioneering fellow compatriot Jacque Mayol, star of the hit film ‘The Big Blue’. Néry specialises in constant weight diving, meaning he only dives using his own weight and flippers with no aid, the hardest classification in the sport. He has broken the world freediving record four times and was crowned world champion on two occasions. He gave up competition after he accidentally dived too deep, due to an error from organizers, which resulted in him blacking out on ascent and damaging a lung. The accident could have been fatal but ended up being a minor setback for Néry’s career. He now continues to dive and along with his wife Julie Gautier tours the world filming dives and giving speeches to promote the art of free diving.

Guillaume Nery
Guillaume checks out some of the photos (Photo by Frank Seguin via Red Bull)

A journey between two breaths

In a 2013 TED talk in Toulouse Néry talked about his love of free diving and the science behind it. During that speech he described free diving as “a journey between two breaths”. This film is a story set between those two breaths at both the start and end of the video. But between those two breaths we are taken on a journey that highlights the beauty of free diving and the marine world. Néry says the inspiration behind the project is to “to show another side of freediving” to encourage others to try the experience for themselves. It is often considered a dangerous sport, his own accident could have been fatal, but Néry believes “It’s about being at ease in the water, It’s extremely beautiful, very poetic and artistic”. That was the message he was trying to convey in this film and he accomplishes that goal spectacularly.

Moving with ease

One of the first things that hits you when watching the film is how easy Néry moves around underwater. With just a lungs full of air he is able to transverse the various locations he visits with comfort and ease. Whether it’s swimming, free falling, running, climbing or walking upside down he makes it look effortless.  It is aided with flawlessly edited shots, by Ben Nardini, that transition perfectly between scenes making it seem like he really doesn’t need to breathe at all. What makes some of those shots even more impressive is that they were filmed by Néry’s wife Julie Gautier whilst she too was free diving, arguably a harder skill altogether. Their work highlights that given time and training humans are capable of becoming much more at home underwater than we might think.

Guillaume Nery en apnÈe dans l'Atlantide Japonais : Yonaguni
Guillaume Néry runs across a rocky plateau (Photo by Frank Seguin via Red Bull)

Sounds of the sea

Apart from the stunning visuals what also makes this piece so enjoyable to watch is the incredible audio. Not only is there a fantastic original soundtrack, created by Guillaume Ferran, but it also incorporates real sounds of the deep. The noise of cracking ice sheets, sharks swimming and whale song cut through the soundtrack and make you feel like you are right there beside him. As well as being very entertaining this also demonstrates how easy sound can travel through the oceans. If you think ice is loud just imaging how invasive and damaging sonar is to marine life. But for me one of the cleverest uses of sound is the busy noise of the beach after he resurfaces. It sharply contrasts the serenity of the ocean and makes you feel like you really have spent the last 10 minutes completely submerged beneath the waves.

The wonder of wildlife

Whilst the film itself is not necessarily dedicated to marine life it does feature a variety of up close and personal interactions with some of the most incredible megafauna in the oceans. Firstly Néry swims amongst hundreds of reef sharks of varying species. What is incredible is just how little attention they pay him as he gazes in wonder amongst them. For me it highlights how sharks have been poorly stereotyped as aggressive and dangerous by popular media. Next he becomes dwarfed by a group of sperm whales first peacefully sleeping before roaring into life in an explosion of noise. He even swims alongside some humpback whales before they disappear back into the blue. He also comes face to face with humans as he is joined by the Bajau, a group of fishermen from the Phillipines and Thailand, who expertly spearfish their prey whilst walking along the seafloor.

Guillaume Nery rencontre avec les Cachalots
Swimming with Sperm whales (photo by Frank Seguin via Red Bull)

Connecting with nature

For free divers like Guillaume Néry free diving is more than just a sport it is about being at one with the ocean. In his TED talk he talks a lot about humility and perspective. When in the deep blue he says “nowhere else on Earth can you experience this, looking all around you and seeing the same thing”. He claims he feels peaceful knowing “I’m a little speck of nothingness lost in space and time”. He even relates it to the famous ‘pale blue dot’ image captured by the Voyager probe 4 billion kilometres away from Earth. When free diving he believes “you can see another world, another universe, completely magical”. This is something I think comes across very well in the film.

The film

Check out the film for yourself! Guillaume Néry recommends turning off all the lights and putting in the headphones to fully experience the journey.

(Just remember to keep breathing yourself)

 

The art of freediving

Free diving is an activity that requires a tremendous mental capacity as well as physiological traits. In his 2013 Guillaume Néry talks about being able to relinquish control saying “the elements and nature are stronger than you and so I let the water crush me”. In his profession if you struggle or panic then you are putting your life in real danger. Instead you have to trust in the innate physiological responses hardwired into our DNA from ocean dwelling ancestors. Néry says he gets an “extraordinary feeling of well-being” from that and believes it is due to the fact he “completely loses all tensions”. So for divers like Néry it is as much of an inner journey as a physical journey through the water.

If you want to know more about what happens to divers like Néry when they dive then check out his TED talk below.

 

Try it for yourself

Guillaume Néry ends his TED talk encouraging other people to try free diving. But you don’t have to go to a hundred of metres and push your body to the limit like he does to enjoy the benefits of the sport. It is more about the art of controlling your breath and reconnecting with nature. He says that in the 21st century “we think at a million miles an hour” but that “when you stop breathing, you stop thinking too”.


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