In The Cove, a group of dolphin activists plan to thwart local fishermen’ attempts to capture and kill the dolphins that swim into the cove. It takes place in Taiji, Japan, a small town where dolphin fishing has been practiced for years. The film is suspenseful and intense, emotional and intelligent. The makers of the film often employ manipulative techniques to highlight exactly how awful this hunt is, heightening the disparity between dolphins and food—and how there seems to be no disparity among the two in minds of the government and fishermen of Taiji.
Though The Cove tends to lean towards a documentary-type of genre, it can, at times, feel extremely staged.
Oftentimes, during the interviews of the separate activists, sad music designed to enhance the mood will be playing. Perhaps a quick shot or two of dolphins leaping in the water will be added, so that the audience will be awed at the strength of such a creature. Certainly, the documentary touts the extraordinary qualities of the dolphin, and how cruel and senseless the slaughter is.
For example, take a look at this shot:
In this scene, we see a wave of dolphins essentially being herded into captivity. The way that this was incorporated into the film, however, is of note. Earlier in the film, the grace and power of the dolphin as a free animal was noted, along with several cuts of leaping dolphins. You had some interviews with people who had experience with dolphins. They would note that they were extremely smart, emotional creatures with perhaps an intelligence higher than that of a human. Then the directors include this scene, which is shocking in its disparity. The dolphins are shocked and scared, and what comes to mind is just a senseless slaughter. Seeing dolphins as food, might, at one time, seem feasible. But with the juxtaposition of the shots of the dolphins being free, and this shot, in which they are hunted down horribly, the audience is horrified. No longer can the audience see plausibility in dolphins being hunted for food—now, it seems downright insane.
Another shot in which the disparity between dolphins and food grows is those shots of the team gathering up equipment to film the dolphin slaughter. Earlier within the film, there were shots of the team trying to get pictures of what was happening, to no avail. But they come together, and form a bigger plan in which they use high tech equipment to try and capture exactly what is happening. It’s an interesting approach. You might have some protestors come in and protest every once in a while—such as Hayden Panettiere did with her fellow surfers (also shown in the movie). But with these shots of the team so determined, going out and buying such high technical equipment, the audience feels a sense of urgency.
These shots frame the killings as not just something that activists will just merely protest against. It shows that these killings of dolphins for food are such a crime, that activists are willing to go in with the proverbial “big guns”, in order to try and stop it. Again, the lengths that these activists are willing to go to just highlight how horrible the idea is that people would hunt dolphins to eat. It’s a good tactic. The audience is rooting for these activists, hoping that they will win for the dolphins.
What one takes away from such a film is that the slaughter of dolphins is an action that still exists—but one that must soon be stopped. The take that The Cove has on the slaughter is one perhaps a little more extreme and staged than others, but it is still truthful in its depiction. It’s a well-made film, which succeeds in its intentions.