Meet the man behind the beautiful French flick filmed in Cape Town

2017-06-27 12:32
Jérôme Salle

Cape Town - The phone rings. Jérôme Salle picks up. 

The French director and screenwriter is on the line to talk about his new film L'Odyssée based on the life of legendary explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. 

It’s a gloomy afternoon in Cape Town and the room from which I’m phoning has large glass windows overlooking the ocean and the harbour. 

It’s fitting in so many ways seeing that a majority of L'Odyssée was actually filmed in the Mother City – a popular destination among international filmmakers. 

But this isn’t Jérôme’s first time working on South African soil. His previous film Zulu, starring Orlando Bloom, was also filmed here. 

“I’ve worked with South African crew before and again with L'Odyssée and it’s a great experience. The landscape and the people make it one of my favourite places. I was so happy to be able to return,” he explains. 

(Jérôme Salle attends the L'Odyssée premiere during the 12th Zurich Film Festival. Photo: Getty Images)


L'Odyssée is a beautiful film that tells the story of thirty years in the life of Cousteau - the well-known researcher, scientist and adventurer whose marine documentaries piqued the public’s interest in the sea. 

Jérôme artfully weaves the romantic storyline of his film with real-life environmental issues whilst subtly incorporating elements that bring homage to the undertones that made Cousteau’s films so unique. He paints a wonderful picture using a pantone of blues, greys and greens with a splash of red.

“I was inspired by Cousteau. He’s always been a hero of mine. The graphics and colours pay tribute to the look and feel Cousteau’s technicolour films. This project took years to make. We worked on rough seas both above and beneath. But I think the biggest challenge was actually getting this film onto the big screen,” he explains. 

“This was a souvenir from my childhood. Something I had to do. The more I read up on Cousteau the more complex the story became. It was one I simply had to tell.”

Apart from those challenges Jérôme also wanted the film to have a very realistic feel to it and be less dependent on CGI. This might seem like a completely doable task at first but becomes a lot more complicated when the cast and crew came face-to-face with real sharks in the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  

A risk indeed. But one that definitely paid off. L'Odyssée stirs within the viewer a silent desperation to escape the mundane and find new adventures. With its stellar cast including Audrey Tautou, Pierre Niney and Lambert Wilson this aquatic drama is a definite must-see. 

As the interview comes to an end Jérôme rings off with the words everyone utters once they’ve set foot on our picturesque shores: “I hope to be back in Cape Town soon”.


L'Odyssée (The Odyssey) opens in South African cinemas on Friday, 14 July. 

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