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Planktonium is a short film about the unseen world of living microscopic plankton. It is a voyage into a secret universe, inhabited by alien-like creatures. These stunningly beautiful, very diverse and numerous organisms are unknown to most of us because they are invisible to the naked eye. However, they are wandering beneath the surface of all waters around us and they are of vital importance for all life on earth.

Jan van IJken filmed the plankton through his microscopes, revealing the beauty and delicate structures of the minute organisms in the finest detail. The film is without any voice-over or explanation.

Renowned Norwegian artist Jana Winderen made a sound composition for the film. She is recording audio environments and creatures which are hard for humans to access, both physically and aurally – deep under water, inside ice or in frequency ranges inaudible to the human ear.

Phytoplankton (small plant-like cells) are producing half of all oxygen on earth by photosynthesis, like plants and trees do on land. Zooplankton (animal-like critters) are eating the phytoplankton, and are on the menu of larger animals in the water. So plankton is forming the base of the food chain of aquatic life. Plankton are also playing an important part in the global carbon cycle. The plankton are threatened by climate change, global warming and acidification of the oceans.

Filmed, directed and produced by Jan van IJken
Sound composition by Jana Winderen
Edited by Jan van IJken and Metje Postma

Produced with generous financial support of Gemeente Leiden, Stichting Oog op de Natuur and The Netherlands Film Fund.

Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden the Netherlands acquired one copy of the film for the museum collection.
Planktonium has been part of the Leiden European City of Science program in 2022.

2021, 4K, color, 15:23 min

Screenings and Awards

Director Statement


Planktonium in the Auditorium of Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden, NL (2022)