Directed by: Wim Wenders
Based on the novel, “Submergence” by: J.M. Ledgard
Screenplay Written by: Erin Dignam
Cinematographer: Benoît Debie
Produced by: Cameron Lamb along with Wim Wenders and Uwe Kiefer
Starring: Alicia Vikander, James McAvoy, Cerlyn Jones, Reda Kateb, Alexander Siddig and Hakeemshady Mohamed.
Based on the novel written by journalist J.M. Ledgard, Submergence opens the door to soaring cliffs and underwater twilight, to the senseless violence of women buried and bashed and foreigners imprisoned while Jihadists make suicide vests.
This is a movie of contrasts, where bio-mathematician Danielle Flinders (Alicia Vikander) and British Secret Service agent James More (James McAvoy) meet at a hotel on the Normandy coast in France.
Danielle’s a professor and believer in nature with a drive to understand the depths of the ocean down to where there’s no light, just darkness, searching for the origin of life to show the world there’s life in darkness.
Scottish agent James believes the world’s about power, that education is secondary – he wants to save the world by stopping terrorists from setting off bombs. His mission is to travel to Somalia to find the men responsible, to put his own life at risk to save others.
They meet; they fall in love. They each have a mission where they may never come back.
Submersion is a romance. The eyes meeting, searching to reveal the other. Yet, there’s this thread of water and life.
We’re introduced to the happy professor as she works on the discovery of the origins of life on earth; her research to compare samples with those from Mars, ground breaking.
Dani’s whole being is about work and what it means to the world.
She’s then drawn into a smaller world, a bubble – where love is like death; where apart she realises she’s never been lonely before.
To which her colleague Thumbs (Cerlyn Jones) replies, ‘Welcome to the planet’.
The film floats around with one storyline flowing into the other, from the underwater world viewed from a submersible hundreds of kilometres below the surface, to the stark desert sun where James is chained, waiting interrogation – waiting to get back to Danielle.
I drifted in and out of the film with the meeting of the British operatives to the lovers discussing life, to the science of photosynthetic life that creates through light to the organisms of darkness who live on chemicals – director Wim Wenders gives poetry to the perspective.
I liked McAvoy as the Scottish operative who falls in love – he’s a witty and likable character and quite a different role with more warmth and less crazy than his recent previous roles in such films as, ‘Split (2016)’, ‘Atomic Blonde (2017)’ or even ‘Trance (2013)’. I admit I’m a big fan.
Alicia Vikander as the mathematician was slow to warm as she falls for the Scotsman.
They’re a couple I found more believable apart than together.
I didn’t believe their love for each other as much as their passion for life because there was so much reasoning involved.
The contrast of the scientist, the solider, the extremists who believe Jihad is life after death – this is what I found interesting.
As Wenders states:
“What I really hope is on a rainy Thursday night in Bristol or Detroit or wherever you are, when you come out of the cinema, your perspective of the planet, on your own habits, is just altered slightly. You will realize how large the world is, how varied it is, but also how fragile it is.”
Overall, I found Submergence a quietly absorbing and interesting escape.
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