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.