Dramatic Short Film Explores the Secret World of Microscopic Plankton

Plankton Larva

Photographer and filmmaker Jan Van IJken has plunged into the mysterious world of plankton for his short film Planktonium. Using a microscope, he takes us inside a world unseen by the naked eye. And in doing so, he sheds a spotlight on these heroes of the ecosystem, which are increasingly in danger due to climate change.

These living organisms, which can take on alien-like forms, play a vital role on our planet. They are divided into two main groups, phytoplankton—which are plants—and zooplankton—which are animals. Phytoplankton accounts for half of Earth's photosynthesis, making it one of the world's top oxygen producers. Zooplankton is an essential food source for many marine creatures, including whales.

Yet, for all of the plankton's importance, there is still so much unknown. To remove the veil of mystery, Van IJken filmed these fascinating creatures under a microscope and recorded all of their fascinating details. The result is the 15-minute short film Planktonium. Set to a haunting sound composition by Norwegian artist Jana Winderen, the images are presented without narration.

In this way, Van IJken allows the plankton to speak for themselves. Their slow movements and complex forms take center stage, as viewers are able to see what is typically invisible. A short 3-minute version is available on Vimeo, but if you want to get the full experience, Van IJken's full film is available to rent or download on-demand.

Planktonium is a short film looking at the world of microscopic plankton.

Dutch filmmaker Jan Van IJken filmed a variety of plankton under a microscope.

Planktonium by Jan Van IJken

Planktonium by Jan Van IJken

He calls the result “a voyage into a secret universe, inhabited by alien-like creatures.”

Plankton Microscopy

Microscope Photo of Plankton

This work highlights the importance of plankton, which are increasingly under threat from climate change.

Microscope Photo of Plankton

Close Up Photo of Plankton

The full, 15-minute short film is available on demand.

Planktonium by Jan Van IJken

Planktonium by Jan Van IJken

Jan Van IJken: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Vimeo

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Jan Van IJken.

Related Articles:

Marine Biologist’s Blackwater Photos Uncover Hidden Ocean Creatures

Incredible Bioluminescent Sea Sparkles Cause a Glowing Shore in Wales

Mesmerizing Footage Reveals the Radiant Nightlife of Deep-Sea Creatures

Underwater Photographer Spends 20 Years Capturing Photos of Microscopic Plankton

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content