A labor of love that entailed 13 years of work for Dutch writer-director-cinematographer Gert de Graaff, “The Sea That Thinks” is an elaborate existential rumination on the meaning of life and self, nature and the creative process. Densely wordy and rich in arrestingly surreal imagery, this blend of conceptual art, narrative and documentary may find its share of admirers in festival showings but is too self-reflexively cerebral to figure commercially. Despite its category-defying, hybrid nature, the film won the main prize in December at the Intl. Documentary Filmfestival in Amsterdam.
Central figure is a screenwriter working on the script of the title but plagued by questions too big for him to answer. As he tirelessly seeks to define himself through his screenplay, the scribe becomes gradually submerged in notes, quotations and passages from literature. His script absorbs everything happening around him, which in turn appears to be shaped by his writing. De Graaff’s playful use of imaginative optical illusions — frequently altering perceptions of the writer in proportion to his world — makes this overextended, obsessively scored film about itself more visually than intellectually stimulating.