Wednesday, 29 May 2013


A common trait of contemporary Scandinavian film and TV, albeit with exceptions notable and numerous, is its bracing directness. There's a lack of vanity in the acting, the cinematography is both beautifully honest and honestly beautiful, the scripting uncomplicated, straightforward. Iceland, for its obvious geographical distinction from mainland Scandinavia, is distinctly Scandinavian in its culture, as is evident in this real-life drama from Baltasar Kormakur. Kormakur has dabbled in Hollywood too, and his 2012 film Contraband was somewhat wanting in the like of rugged naturalism in abundance in The Deep. Here, he continues on a theme that has proved solid in his career to date - peril on the high seas. In this case, the peril is less on the sea than in the sea, as the fishing boat on which Gulli (Olafur Darri Olafsson) works capsizes in the icy North Atlantic Ocean. His fellow crew members die either in the accident that topples their vessel or in the frigid ocean, but Gulli battles on, and leads the film onto rather different shores than one would naturally expect. His personal challenge through the night, his body suffering, his mind perhaps even more, is hardly revolutionary filmmaking, but it's riveting nonetheless, and Olafsson's depiction of a man under intense and unrelenting hardship is likely the main cause. No doubt Kormakur and co-writer Jon Atli Jonasson were attracted to the cinematic potential of not only this part of the story, an opportunity to show off some nuts-and-bolts-type work, that 'bracing directness', but also the subsequent developments, which are certainly fascinating. But Kormakur is in more conventional territory here, and the details of this true story are not sufficient to sustain our interest. Much as it's too good a story not to tell it, the first half (and a bit) of The Deep are simply superior to this second half. Most everything else about this film is unobtrusive, performing its duty with skill and precision, which is fine by me.