Octopuses not only have a remarkable intelligence that allows them to open a jar of jam in less than ten minutes – a feat gently mocked by comedian Roman Frayssinet in a crazy sketch worthy of the animal. They also have three hearts, blue blood and the ability to change color or shape with the snap of a tentacle. It is therefore deserved that they are the subject of the final part of the documentary trilogy The Secrets of…, produced by James Cameron.

After whales (in 2021) and elephants (in 2023), The Secrets of Octopus is scheduled in the wake of Earth Day. Split into three parts broadcast consecutively, it also benefits from a renowned narrator (in original language): the actor Paul Rudd (starring in Ghostbusters. The Ice Menace, by Gil Kenan).

Beyond these prestigious names, after two years of filming from Canada to Costa Rica, from Australia to Indonesia, this opus achieves the feat of making us feel the sensitivity of the animal. To the point – which some will consider extreme – to arouse empathy towards this short-lived orphan.

Complex Intelligence

“Metamorphs”, the first chapter, illustrates in fascinating images the ability of octopuses to change their appearance to camouflage themselves, immobile, or on the contrary to swim like a flatfish in order to fool a barracuda. What surprises scientists most is that the octopod then seems to decide, depending on the context, which mode of defense to adopt: withdrawal, metamorphosis or camouflage. Which would induce complex intelligence.

But what is intelligence? The chapter “Little Geniuses” highlights three skills: adapting, dreaming and using a tool. However, only 0.1% of animals are capable of this, points out biologist Alex Schnell, who has been studying octopuses for a decade. Demonstrated underwater, off the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, where an endangered coconut octopus is able to find a coconut, reach inside and close on it both valves.

Passionate, scientists multiply experiments and observations in front of the lens. Facing their screen, the viewer takes full advantage of it. Each shot is a discovery. Perhaps the most striking is the one showing how a hungry octopus “adapts” its lens to look out of the water before venturing onto the rocks.

“To understand them, you have to see them as individuals in their own right,” says diver Krystal Janicki, who claims to know some of the giant octopuses personally, and introduces us to one of them, Scarlet. Later, Scarlet will come and caress her arm to convince her to follow her for an incredible ride.

The last episode, “Connected Animals”, intends to challenge the preconceived idea that octopuses are solitary. In particular by attending an octopus speed dating and participating in a gathering of females.

If we can regret the anthropomorphism of certain comments – such as on the acceptance of difference – and the long summary offered by James Cameron in conclusion, there remain unpublished underwater images and, why not, the possibility of an octopus-human dialogue, as exists with the dog, the dolphin…