Stefan Helmreich is Professor of Anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of
Massive Movie Waves
This short interstitial chapter examines representations of ocean waves in disaster and science fiction movies, reading them for what they can indicate about shifting ideological accounts of human-ocean relations. The chapter tracks the technical conjuring of such on-screen waves, made using everything from scale-model wave tanks to computer-generated imagery (CGI) and explicates how they enable waves' narrative purposes and effects. Towering waves in film have operated as emblems of the elemental power of cosmic, inhuman, arbitrary forces; the return of the social-environmental repressed; and the power and limits of cinematic media themselves.