The Silent World (French: Le Monde du silence) is a 1956 French documentary film co-directed by the famed French oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau and a young Louis Malle. The Silent World is noted as one of the first films to use underwater cinematography to show the ocean depths in color. Its title derives from Cousteau’s 1953 book The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure.
The film was shot aboard the ship Calypso. Cousteau and his team of divers shot 25 kilometers of film over two years in the Mediterranean Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, of which 2.5 kilometers were included in the finished documentary.
The film later faced criticism for environmental damage done during the filmmaking. In one scene, the crew of the Calypso massacre a school of sharks that were drawn to the carcass of a baby whale, which itself had been mortally injured by the crew, albeit accidentally (Cousteau had the ship driven into a pod of whales to get a close-up view, striking one whale in the process before the baby was lacerated by the prop.) In another, Cousteau uses dynamite near a coral reef in order to make a more complete census of the marine life in its vicinity.
The Silent World was the first of Cousteau’s documentary films to win an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature; World Without Sun also won in 1964. The film also won the Palme d’Or award at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival, being the only documentary film to win the award until Michael Moore‘s Fahrenheit 9/11 repeated the feat in 2004.