In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “As much as I wish I wasn’t sucked in by it, the “based on a true story” pedigree of The Deep only made me more impressed by it.”
The main reason I started this blog was to make me watch more movies, and to vary the kinds of movies I watched. The first part of that has been well and truly accomplished with me watching hundreds of movies for the first time, instead of falling back on old favourites over and over again. But l’m not sure if I’ve varied my selections enough. I still watch mainly American movies, with directors, writers and actors that make them a pretty safe bet. So this year, I’m forcing myself to seek out more international movies. With Foreign Language Weekends, every weekend(ish) during 2016, I’ll review two(ish) non-English language movies.
“How do you research a miracle?”
Phrases like “true story” and “based on true events” always baffle me in movie marketing. I’m a big believer in the finished product being the only thing that matters when it comes to movies, and art in general. I don’t know why I’m supposed to give a story more credence or be more impressed just because it happened, or something similar happened, to some real people in real life. Either a movie is good on its own terms, or it’s not. But every now and again, there’s a stranger than fiction mind blower, a too real to be ignored horror story about just how terrible people can be, or an uplifting story of inspiration and overcoming adversity that needs to be based on a true story if there’s any chance of overcoming the cornball positivity. Every now and again, there’s a movie like The Deep.
20 years ago, a small Icelandic island and its community were devastated by the eruption of a nearby volcano. Today, those who stayed have come to define themselves by the fortitude it took to survive that disaster, and the fortitude it takes to continue their lives there as fisherman in the freezing North Atlantic Ocean. Setting out on their latest fishing expedition, the crew of small boat includes typical survival-story-guy-with-everything-to-live-for and young father, Palli (Joi Johannsson), as well as your typical slacker-who’s-done-nothing-with-his-life, Gulli (Olafur Darri Olafsson).
When one of the trawling nets snags an undersea rock and no one can turn the winch off in time, the boat drags itself over, capsising in the freezing sea. Gulli, Palli and Palli’s father all survive the initial incident, but it’s not long before Gulli is left by himself, with miles to swim if he is going to have any chance of survival. But there’s more than just the endless darkness and ocean to contend with. There’s also deadly lava fields waiting for him when he does reach land.
The Deep isn’t the straight forward survival story that my description might have you imagining. To say that Gulli makes it in no way gives away anything important in the story. Even the trailer makes that very clear. This isn’t just a story about survival, it’s a story about what happens next, coming to terms with how and why you made it, when others didn’t. And it takes that to a place more interesting and complex than simply the joy of living, or guilt for those who didn’t. It goes to a place of conflict and confusion that makes the survival aspect so much more interesting than if it was simply about inspirational triumph over adversity.
And all of that only works because of Olafur Darri Olafsson’s work at the movie’s centre as Gully. He captures the loveable, wacky best friend character so perfectly in the initial scenes, that it’s easy to assume this will be a story about Palli making it home to his wife and young sons. Olafsson makes the transition into determined man of action feel earned and believable. His struggles with the aftermath are equal parts sad and inspirational. And as much as I wish I wasn’t sucked in by it, the “based on a true story” pedigree of The Deep only made me more impressed by it.