The Deep

The Deep

***1/2

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

The Deep is based on the true story of an Icelandic fisherman, Gulli (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), who survived the capsizing of the trawler Breki off the coast of the Westman Islands – despite being in the icy-cold water for six hours. It is a remarkably believable film, capably and sensitively directed by the prolific Baltasar Kormákur. While events portrayed occurred in 1984 – it seems almost timeless. The only authoritative time-stamp is an argument over Betamax and VHS's technical merits among the crew.

It is a film of communities: the island and the boat's crew are quickly and efficiently characterised and explored in some depth as the film progresses. Ólafsson is in nearly every scene, giving a quietly dignified performance. His memories while swimming to shore are shown through grainy 8mm staged flashbacks, capturing his desperation and willingness to keep going - such as listing all the things he wants to do in an affecting “one more day” montage. He also recalls the hardiness of the island's inhabitants – as they rebuild and persevere after a volcanic eruption in Gulli's childhood. It's not hard to see a parallel between all of the communities, or indeed, why Gulli became a national hero after his phenomenal survival.

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Technically, Kormákur is flawless. A superior sense of place and editorial timing lends the Breki's disaster urgency, tension and terror. Gulli's story is well-told visually – with the murky, impenetrable gloom of the sea contrasting effectively with the harshness of the environment; Gulli clambering and walking across glittering sharp rocks of volcanic glass without shoes sends shivers through the audience.

Even as men become the playthings of the gods, churning against tide and current, foam and rock, the film remains intimate and vivid. In our most desperate times, and in a subsequent scientific analysis of Gulli's “miracle” - while overlong – it retains that which truly matters.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2013
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The story of a man who survived for nine hours in freezing seas after a shipwreck, and the impact of his legacy.
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EIFF 2013

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