THE DEEP, from Director Baltasar Kormakur, Presents an Astonishing Tale of Survival in the Icelandic Ocean

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THE DEEP, Iceland’s Official selection for the 2012 Academy Awards, presents an astonishing true story of survival against the brutal and bitter backdrop of the Icelandic Ocean.

Produced by Agnes Johansen, Lilja Palmadottir, David Linde and Kormakur, THE DEEP stars Olafur Darri Olafsson as Gulli and was written by Kormakur, in association with Filmhuset AS and Blueeyes Productions.

Filmed entirely in Iceland, THE DEEP begins on the Westman Islands that sit on an active volcano off the coast of Iceland. The villagers, most of whom have grown up together, married other villagers, live, work, suffer and mourn, together.

THE DEEP begins as one would expect: blowing snow, windy, so freezing cold, the chill escapes from the screen, as the bitter Icelandic arctic air travels through this small fishing village. Gulli, portrayed by Olafur Darri Olafsson, is downing his last few at the local bar with a new crew member as they prepare to leave at dawn.

The morning comes early, with ice coated windshields, the families gather to say their good-by’s. The crew, captain, cook all ready for a working trip, a quick haul, and then back home to family, love, warmth.

The trip begins like any other, bad eggs and worse coffee, and the wait, while they power to deeper waters.  They’re a bottom trawler so they pull the nets across the ocean floor, scooping up everything that moves and some things that don’t. Catching on underwater boulders, from time to time, they stop, back it up, or rock loose and move on.

Unfortunately, they test fate one time too many and try to rock it loose, as the captain doesn’t want to “cut the new nets” and the rocks, unyielding, and the captain even more so, pull the boat over, capsizing it. The crew is immediately cast into glacial, freezing waters about three miles off the coast from their home.

Gulli is not in the best physical shape, a drinker and smoker, he’s somewhat overweight, and as he, the Captain and his best lifelong best friend sit on the overturned hull deciding how to survive. In shock, the two friends decide to swim, within minutes one, is overtaken by hypothermia and dies.

Alone, in the vast, frigid water Gulli, continues to swim, and swim, and as the camera pulls away and shows the magnitude of the oceans, and against all odds, he swims, and somehow, he makes it back to his island. After six hours of bitter cold, piercing, stabbing ice needles, he crawls to the shore.

Losing his shoes, he begins to walk across the frozen, volcanic jagged, sharp shale rocks until he makes it back to the village, bloody, feet wrapped in the remnants of his shirt, icicles hanging to his clothes. He collapses and is taken to the hospital.

At first his story was doubted by the local police as it would have been impossible to survive the harsh and bitter water, let alone swimming for four to six hours, then coast guard discover the remains of the ship. Soon he was a local celebrity as his story of survival against all odds became the subject of an interview (of which cuts are seen at the end of the film). 

The interview was seen in London by a scientist who flew to Iceland and put him through a series of tests which included simulated swimming with three other men in a controlled pool while adding ice to the water. The three men were unable to participate for five minutes, Gulli continued and it was then he realized it wasn’t simply luck, or God, fate, kismet, happenstance or chance that he was able to survive. According to the tests he was basically self insulated. and was born with “seal skin” or a natural body fat inhibitor to cold which allowed him to swim four to six hours and not succumb to hypothermia or even get frost bite or suffer other cold related injuries.  

THE DEEP is an amazing story, beyond belief. Even though it was staggering news in 1984, it was virtually unheard of prior to the release of the film.  As ocean films are difficult to get “right” as there is little or limited action with the Ocean as the antagonist, or adversary, THE DEEP, fills the screen time with flashbacks, scenes from moments of a life that one might experience prior to death to complete the story and build the relationships between the now deceased characters and with that weaves a life into this compassionate and shy lone survivor.

THE DEEP is in Icelandic with English subtitles and is playing in select cities. Check your local listings.

 

 

 

 

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