Germany, 2006, 95 minutes, Colour.
Susan May Pratt, Richard Speight Jnr, Niklaus Lange, Ali Hillis, Cameron Richardson, Eric Dane.
Directed by Hans Horn.
Another picture of an ordeal and struggle for survival. With this kind of film, it is also something of an ordeal to sit through it as we observe the characters, become emotionally involved (or not), wonder what we would do in similar circumstances.
Several years ago there was a film called Deep Water, based on events off the Queensland coast, as a couple were stranded by a tour boat and had to survive water and sharks. It was done in the cinema verite styles, as if it were being filmed as it happened. There is something of this here, but the film has a bigger budget and uses the widescreen process. This gives the ordeal a larger scope. While we watch the different characters in the water, we also look at the group from the different individuals’ point of view.
There is a home movie prologue introducing most of the characters who come across as a young adult take-them-or-leave them group fooling around. (The temptation is to leave them.)
Five years later they go on a weekend cruise. Judging by the boat, nothing could go wrong. And nothing does go wrong with the boat. The fact that they are adrift is due entirely to human stupidity and mistakes. Still, this does not prevent the consequences from being dangerous and harrowing.
The action takes place over 24 hours with six people in the water. Most of the day is calm but there is a night storm and rain. Once the situation is realised, we watch the attempts of the group to get back on board, then the blame and recriminations and the reactions from hysteria to quiet support and stoicism. There are some melodramatic moments and moments of pathos, so that there is some feeling towards the characters’ plight and the drive for survival.
This is a German film, made in Malta, with an American cast, so smoothly done that it looks and sounds like a genuine American film.
1.The impact of the film – allegedly based on actual events? Credible? Interesting, emotional, exciting? Thought-provoking?
2.The title, the group adrift in the ocean? The background of such films as Deep Water and audience expectations of this kind of story?
3.The ocean settings, the calm sea for most of the day, the storm at night, the rain? The next morning and the clouds? The use of the sea? As a location, as a menace, as a support? The musical score, especially the use of piano?
4.The prologue: the home movie, the group, their fooling around, the introduction to the characters, carefree, hedonistic? The bonds between them? Recklessness? Sufficient introduction for the main action?
5.The film taking place over twenty-four hours, the bright holiday, the birthday celebration, people gathering, the boat, the voyage, the tragedy, the difficulties and struggle, the resolution – and the enigmatic aspects of the ending?
6.The credibility of the plot? It not being revealed till the end that Dan had actually taken his employer’s boat, that he was not a millionaire, that he was pretending, a fraud? The effect of this revelation? At the opening, everybody assembling, believing that Dan was successful? The background of friendship, college days? Rivalries? Zac and his birthday and the celebration? Going on board, finding Dan with Michelle? The voyage under way, the chatter, the comparisons? Everything set for an enjoyable voyage?
7.Everybody going for a swim, the diving? People enjoying the day? Dan and his decision to help Amy with her phobia, his picking her up, leaping into the water? Her trauma, people’s reaction? The realisation that there was no way back on the boat? The attacks on Dan for his lack of preparation, his admitting it – and then audiences later understanding why?
8.The assembling of the group: Amy and James, driving, baby Sarah in the back, their singing ‘Frere Jacques’ to her? A loving couple? Zac and Lauren, their relationship, the birthday celebration? Dan and Michelle, knowing each other for two weeks, Dan and his promiscuity, Michelle – and their being amazed that she could tell the time?
9.The focus on the particular characters and how they dealt with the situation? Amy and her memories of the traumatic drowning, her fear of the water? Her not wanting to go up the gangplank, her being exhorted to do so? Safely on board? Her wearing the lifejacket? Her not going for the swim? Her care for the baby, tending it, the mechanism for hearing whether she was crying or not? Her love for James? James, the bonds, meeting the group, going for the swim? Amy and her discussion with Dan, his picking her up, the traumatic experience of his leaping over the side, the way this was visually done, slow motion? Amy and her going into a catatonic state? Her gradually coming round? James, his support? Amy and her getting over her phobia, the continued memories of the drowning? Her being supportive, James, his using his commonsense, diving under the boat to try to see whether there was any entry? His dropping the knife, diving down, coming up, hitting his head, the concussion? His going into shock? His managing, the crushing of his brain? His slowly dying, Amy’s grief, her finally having to let him go? Amy and her survival, her support of Dan, getting him to find the knife? Rescuing him? The device for getting onto the boat, her concern about Sarah, reassuring her, going back for Dan, almost too late, the motivation for her diving in? The next day, the trawler passing, her standing alone? Dan face-down on the deck? What future?
10.Zac and Lauren, the bonds between them, easygoing, the swim, the diving, Lauren and her strength of mind, especially confronting Michelle? Zac, the phone going, their singing ‘Happy Birthday’, his exasperation and throwing the phone away? The hostile reaction of the group? His going off by himself? His getting the knife, attacking the boat, Dan attacking him, the struggle, his being stabbed by the knife? Lauren and her looking after him, holding him for hours? His gradually dying? Lauren having to let him go? Lauren and her not wanting to wait around, her decision to swim to shore and go away from the boat?
11.Michelle, knowing Dan for two weeks, the sexual relationship, petulant, going in for a swim, her wanting to go on board, her feeling cold? Her panic at the situation, her emotional immaturity, desperation, attacking Amy for the lifejacket? Her continued complaints, her reaction to the phone? Her disappearing, her death?
12.Dan, his pretences, his wanting to be the captain of the boat? The group blaming him for not providing a way to get up? The attempts to jump and try to reach the deck, impossible? His going off by himself, his attempts at apology? The struggle with Zac, the stabbing? His blaming himself? The deaths, his surviving, his saying that he ought to have died? Amy wanting him to get the knife? His attempts? Drifting far from the boat, Amy going to rescue him? Was he saved – his body on the deck of the boat?
13.Human stupidity, the group not checking, all being stranded in the water, unable to get back on the boat? The attempts to leap? The tying of the trunks together, almost getting up onto the deck? Its breaking? Trying the flag and tearing the flag in two? Looking to see whether there were any other entries? The use of commonsense? The variety of reactions from extreme panic to stoicism? The deaths, the grief at the deaths? Dan and the breaking of the goggles, giving him the Perspex in order to make an impact as a wedge? Amy and her attempts to stand on Dan’s shoulders, his cutting his hand, her finally getting on board? Too late for most?
14.Audiences watching this kind of film, identifying with the characters or with the situations, imagining what one would do in such circumstances? The film portraying an ordeal – and the harrowing effect of actually watching it?
15.The film as a German production, filmed in Malta, using American actors – but with a definitely American feel of American film-making?
16.The possibility of rescue, planes flying over, the other pleasure boat going past at speed and the people waving, the final trawler finding the boat?
17.The various cinematic styles, the close-ups and angles, wide screen? Scenes of reflection in goggle lenses…?