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The Deep

March 7, 2014

The Deep (2012)
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Actors: Olafur Darri Olafsson, Jóhan G. Johansson, Stefán Hallur Stefánsson

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Synopsis: A group of hardy Icelandic fishermen are left to fend for themselves when their boat sinks miles off the coast of the Westman Islands. Gulli (Olafur Darri Olafsson) is the only survivor, and begins the arduous task of attempting to swim back to land in the freezing waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Review: The laconic, otherworldly ambience of Iceland (and, in particular, the Westman Islands) imprints itself so successfully in this gripping dramatisation by Balthasar Kormákur of a fisherman who, in 1984, was able to swim for six hours all the way back to shore after his boat capsized. There’s such a broody, melancholic feel to proceedings; it’s not realism as such, because there are impressionistic, mournful sequences where the drowned fishermen disappear into the ether of the Atlantic Ocean, and scenes that show how Gulli’s mind functions during his ordeal (memories of his friends and family back on land, and recollections of the seminal volcanic eruption on the island some thirty years before).

Kormákur is discreet enough not to be too exclamatory about his story’s subtext. While all the scientists obsess about Gulli’s unusual amount of body fat that offers him a seal-like insulation against the colds of the Atlantic Ocean, they fail to see that on its own it was not enough to save him – it gave him a better chance than his co-workers, for sure – but Gulli’s sustenance was more symbolic of the in built doughtiness of the people of his land. (March 2014)

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