RevFest 2013 – The Deep

The Deep (Djupio)

Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur

Starring: Olafur Dari Olaffson, Johann G. Johannsson

Four stars

Review by: Julian Wright

One of the more remarkable “based on a true story” films we have had for a while, The Deep is one man’s journey of survival through some of the harshest terrain who is ultimately left to face the haunting question: “why did I survive?” It is an existential drama/mystery that is refreshing in that it that doesn’t offer any answers presented neatly in a gift wrapped package, taps into universal fears of death and isolation and leaves you with a sense of unease mixed with hope.

In 1984, a fishing boat with a crew of several men is capsized of the coast Iceland. One by one, the men succumb to the below freezing ocean water, except for Gulli (Olafur Dari Olaffson) who i left stranded in the middle of nowhere. Gulli spends hours swimming in no particular direction in hopes of finding land. Against the odds, he finds land, but then must scale the cliff-side and walk through a blizzard bare foot to the nearest village. What follows is Gulli’s, and a selection of intrigued scientist’s, attempts to figure out how or why he survived.


The first half of this survivalist film is characterised by a sombre, downbeat mood – the sense of dread is palatable and Gulli’s fight to live is heart-wrenching. Director Baltasar Kormakur’s gloomy imagery perfectly captures the icy winter temperatures that Gulli survives and adds to the tension. The Deep shifts in tone in the second half with the tension alleviated when Gulli becomes somewhat of a guinea pig for the inquisitive scientists, but to Kormakur’s credit, he is still able maintain a mysterious atmosphere as our hero struggles with the big questions.

This journey for answers that are never found, which is surprisingly never frustrating, is buoyed by Olaffson’s understated performance – Gulli is a man of few words but continues to be an intriguing presence due to Olaffson’s quiet, soulful acting. While he never mutters the words, we can feel his internal wrestle with the “why me?” questions. This stark, icy, but beautifully shot and easy to digest film is sure to haunt and create chills.

The Deep screened as part of Revelation Perth International Film Festival.

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