×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Deep

Baltasar Kormakur's latest is a touching, low-key depiction of an incident in which a fishing boat sinks a few miles from shore.

With:
With: Olafur Darri Olafsson, Johann G. Johansson, Bjorn Thors, Throstur Leo Gunnarsson, Thorbjorg Helga Thorgilsdottir, Walter Geir Grimsson, Stefan Hallur Stefansson, Theodur Juliusson, Maria Sigurdardottir, Gudjon Pedersen, Terry Gunnell. (Icelandic, English dialogue)

These days, busy Icelandic multihyphenate Baltasar Kormakur alternates between star-studded English-language pics and smaller passion projects set on his home turf. Real-life survival tale “The Deep” is one of the latter, a touching, low-key depiction of an incident in which a fishing boat sinks a few miles from shore, and one crewman miraculously survives six hours in the freezing ocean while swimming to safety. Played as a slice-of-life drama that reveals reams about national character and identity, “Deep” has already sold to Scandinavia, Britain and France, and should hook further niche arthouse buyers. Icelandic rollout began Sept. 21.

Shy, paunchy twentysomething fisherman Gulli (Olafur Darri Olafsson) is part of a close-knit crew of six working on a rusty fishing trawler, the Breki. He lives with his parents in a small community on the ruggedly beautiful Westmann Islands, where fisheries constitute the main source of income, and everyone knows everyone else. The islanders are a tough, happy-to-drink-and-brawl bunch, not bothered by their harsh climate or an occasional evacuation when the local volcano spews lava.

When the Breki puts out to sea in March 1984, it should be an ordinary run, but an accident with the trawl causes the boat to capsize in rough waters, and the men are swept overboard into the cold, dark Atlantic. To Gulli’s horror, the others, including his best friend, Palli (Johann G. Johansson), quickly succumb to the elements.

In Hollywood, this turn of events might have triggered swelling music and waves of sentiment, but Kormakur keeps faith with his protagonist and the phlegmatic Icelandic temperament. Calmed and comforted by the seagull wheeling above him, Gulli swims and talks, telling the bird about the unfinished business he wishes he could live to complete.

Based on a theatrical monologue spoken by the Gulli character, written by Kormakur’s co-scripter Jon Atli Jonasson, the screenplay, like the original, undercuts its sense of foreboding with grounded humor. The film’s visuals convey a strong sense of the everyday life of the people in a fishing village, their quiet but deep relationships, their sense of determination and acceptance of wild nature.

Kormakur, cast and crew actually shot onboard a real trawler, which they also sank. Seeing the water swamp the vessel is incredibly powerful, as are the shots of Olafsson’s body bobbing in the vastness of the ocean. Lensing by top Icelandic cinematographer Bergsteinn Bjorgulfsson appears almost monochromatic, so dark are the night and the water; 16mm inserts of events from Gulli’s boyhood further open the narrative and convey the sense of his life passing before his eyes.

In keeping with the overall tone, thesping is subdued. Archival news footage of the real Gulli, interviewed from his hospital bed, plays under the end credits.

Popular on Variety

The Deep

Iceland-Norway

Production: A Blueeyes Prods., Filmhuset production, with the support of Eurimages, Nordisk Film & TV Fund, NFI, IFC. (International sales: Bac Films, Paris.). Produced by Agnes Johansen, Baltasar Kormakur. Executive producers, Lilja Palmadottir, David Linde. Co-producer, Egil Odegard. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur. Screenplay, Jon Atli Jonasson, Kormakur, inspired by true events and based on a stage play by Jonasson.

Crew: Camera (color, DV, 16mm, widescreen), Bergsteinn Bjorgulfsson; editors, Sverrir Kristjansson, Elisabet Ronaldsdottir; music, Ben Frost, Daniel Bjarnason; production designer, Atli Geir Gretarsson; costume designer, Helga Stefansdottir; sound (Dolby Digital), Kjartan Kjartansson, Ingvar Lundberg. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 11, 2012. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Olafur Darri Olafsson, Johann G. Johansson, Bjorn Thors, Throstur Leo Gunnarsson, Thorbjorg Helga Thorgilsdottir, Walter Geir Grimsson, Stefan Hallur Stefansson, Theodur Juliusson, Maria Sigurdardottir, Gudjon Pedersen, Terry Gunnell. (Icelandic, English dialogue)

More Film

  • disney d23

    Cruella, Kit Harington and Black Panther's Return: Everything We Learned at D23 Day Two

    Not to be outdone by the avalanche of series orders and casting announcements bolstering the new streaming series Disney Plus, Walt Disney Studios showed off its film wares in a marathon presentation at D23 on Saturday. The Anaheim, Calif. expo brought star power, if perhaps fewer surprises than Friday’s presentation, as fans in princess and [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift'The

    Taylor Swift Downplays Association With Harvey Weinstein

    Taylor Swift’s association with disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was among the topics the singer addressed in a revealing new interview with The Guardian. Weinstein held producer credits for the movies “One Chance” and “The Giver,” both of which featured Swift — in the former, a song, and in the latter, a supporting role. She [...]

  • Breaking Bad Movie

    'Breaking Bad' Movie: Watch the First Teaser for 'El Camino'

    In case you hadn’t heard, Emmy-winning drama “Breaking Bad” is cooking up a movie sequel. On Saturday, after details of Netflix’s project quietly leaked online, the streaming giant issued the first teaser for “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” which will be released on October 11. Starring Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, the “Breaking Bad” [...]

  • Samara Weaving and Adam Brody Big

    'Ready or Not': That Time Samara Weaving Hit Andie MacDowell in the Face

    Samara Weaving didn’t mean to hurt Andie MacDowell, but she did just that while they were rehearsing for their new horror dark comedy “Ready or Not.” “I hit Andie MacDowell in the face by accident,” Weaving says on this week’s episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast. “It was horrible. It was [...]

  • Aracne

    Chile’s Sanfic, Mexico’s Morbido Fest Pact to Promote Latino Horror (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexican horror festival Morbido and Chile’s Santiago Intl. Film Festival (Sanfic) have agreed on a long-term collaboration intended to strengthen the genre film industry in Chile and across Latin America. This partnership will see Morbido representatives attend the Sanfic industry section each year to aid in the promotion of horror projects and advise those projects [...]

  • Tom Holland'Spider-Man: Homecoming' film premiere, Arrivals,

    Tom Holland Addresses Spider-Man’s Studio Divorce at D23: ‘I Love You 3000’

    British actor Tom Holland showed face on the main stage at D23 on Saturday, in the thick of an ugly studio battle over the rights to his iconic Marvel character Spider-Man. Headlines have been rolling in for days about the contentious battle for the cinematic future of the hero, after Sony Pictures became unwilling to [...]

  • Soul Movie

    Pixar's 'Soul' Announces Voice Cast: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey to Star

    Disney debuted a first look at upcoming Pixar film “Soul” at the D23 expo in Anaheim, Calif. and announced its star-studded voice cast. “Soul” imagines that every person on earth comes pre-installed with a soul formed and perfected in a cosmic realm. Jamie Foxx will play a middle-school music teacher on earth who dreams of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content