For as long as I can remember... blue whales have fascinated me more than any other animal. When I was young I remember happening across an illustration on how a blue whale’s major arteries were large enough for an adult to swim through, their hearts the size of SUVs, how they remain the largest creatures to have ever lived - larger than any dinosaur thats ever walked the Earth. As I’ve grown older, I’ve read about their surprisingly high concentration of spindle cells, spindle cells being credited as “the cells that make humans human”, responsible for social organization, empathy, love, speech, intuition.
For everything I have ever read about blue whales, I have always been left in awe of their size, their complexity, and how much of their lives still remain a complete mystery.
The first time I read about the 52 Hertz Whale (also known as the Loneliest Whale) was in 2010, my wife, Erica and I had just moved from Kentucky to Los Angeles, we were still doing our best to land on our feet. Erica had just lost her Grandmother to cancer at 71 - and of all the people who had a strong influence on Erica growing up, she was the spitting image of her Grandmother in many ways.
What initially caught my eye in the New York Times piece were the words “blue whale”, it read,
There were a few things about The Whale’s unique story that moved me on a personal level, most notably, its song: I needed to hear it, I needed to know what the loneliest song in the world sounded like.
After a lot of digging, I found a sped-up (10x) version of the rare song archived on NOAA’s website, which I then slowed back down to the song’s original speed with a sound editing tool; at first it seemed that adjusting the speed had broken the song, the speakers were silent... but I could feel something very subtle. Turning the volume up filled the room with sounds mostly coming from the subwoofers, filling the entire house, seeming to come from no real direction. Erica and I stood there, both in a daze, the strange song looping over and over. “It’s beautiful” she said... That was the start.
Over time, many elements - some personal, some external - began to shape the tone and structure of this film. LONELIEST is many things to me, a story about what it means to move on after losing someone special; a life-long interest with the world’s largest living creature; a collection of stories from people moved by The Whale’s folklore, a folklore born out of scientific research; an exploration of sound, sound as language, sound as symbolism.
At its heart, LONELIEST is a commentary on people’s constant struggle to feel connected with something meaningful, and the strange unexpected places that connection can come from.