Locomotion in Water is an experimental science documentary that moves back and forth between text and images, between Naples as it is now and as it was in the XIX century, to bring to the screen the history of chronophotography in the XIX century as well as a portrait of his inventor, eclectic French scientist Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904).
Naples, 1890. French biologist and physiologist Marey writes to his colleague Georges Demeny from Villa Maria in Posillipo, where he lives and meets with friends and colleagues from different countries including Anton Dohrn, the founder and director of Naples’ Stazione Zoologica (which would later be named after him). Inspired by Dohrn’s public aquarium, Marey built a private one at Villa Maria, which became his laboratory. There he nurtured his great passion for studying fish and cephalopod locomotion. He had a portion of the aquarium walls replaced with glass, so as to make the water almost invisibile and the contours of the fish perfectly sharp, illuminated by external light. To capture fish motion, Marey used a chronophotographer – an ancestor of modern cameras. The images he produced mark the early histories of both cinema and modern physiology, at a time when science and pre-cinema went hand in hand.
This documentary is the result of a joint effort that also involved Naples’ Stazione Zoologica and Karlsruhe’s Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie.