Deep Water ***
A Documentary by Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwerll
Narrated by Tilda Swinton
92 Minutes(Rated PG for thematic elements, mild language and incidental smoking. )
"Deep Water" made me remember a film I saw exactly two years ago this month that blew me away. It was a documentary masterpiece, and even made my list for the Best Films of 2005. That film was "Grizzly Man," a deep, haunting, and very creepy documentary about Timothy Treadwill, a man who lived in the woods with the grizzly bears for several months every year. When he wasn't with the bears in the woods alone he was not happy, and his diaries about his time in the "real world" showed that the only world for him was with the animals. Eventually Treadwill was killed with a rouge grizzly bear, and the only evidence of his death is an audio tape which was destroyed by his best friend. I remembered watching "Grizzly Man" in the theatre, and I remember being terrified of it. There was something always creepy about it. I think it was the fact that I was watching a man do what he loved, so happy in his element, and yet I knew that tragedy would be striking him very shortly. And most of that film is told through the video tapes he made, so we actually see him in his element. I was also creeped out, and sickly curious, by the fact that they might play the tape where he is being killed-but it was destroyed and does not come up in the film.
"Deep Water" is similar in a way. It is about man's interactions with nature, and how they transform him from what he once was. It is also about how nature is much more powerful than man, and its influence is stronger than that of any other person. It is not nearly as creepy or powerful as "Grizzly Man" was, but as nature documentaries are concerned, this is still unsettling and creepy, and it makes you afraid of what it around you. The focus is several years ago, in 1968 England. We follow Donald Crowhurst, who entered a race to sail around the world. He builds his own boat, and goes off. However he soon finds out that his boat, and his skill, is not nearly good enough to be in this contest, and he parks his boat not far off the coast of South America, and he waits for the other contestants to circle the world before he joins them on the way home. He shuts off his radio transmitter, and begins to create his false log of where he is daily. This requires much more effort than just lying about where he is. He has to use mathematical formulas and create realistic evidence that he sailed "x" amount on that day-in coordinate to mapmakers and judges on the way home. Through discussions with his family and friends, we piece together the story of the race, as well as talking about the others who were sailing. One of them was a French sailor who became scared of returning home, because the ten months alone at sea transformed him.
In addition to telling about how isolation and loneliness with only nature as your friend could change a person, this character study of Crowhurst also makes it hard to not be angry with the man who is lying about having sailed around the world. He is doing this not only for himself, but he fears being ridiculed and made fun of if he doesn't return or drops out of the race. He is afraid of scandal, most of all, and even though he is lying through his teeth, I almost felt sorry for the guy. Crowhurst eventually died, and it is assumed that he threw himself off the boat to avoid said scandal, leaving his diaries and his ultimate confession behind.
Now I know that "Deep Water" and "Grizzly Man" share that connection of nature eventually killing the man, but I think the reason why 'Deep Water" did not haunt me on the level that "Grizzly Man" did was because "Deep Water" relies on third person telling of the story, and strong narration by Tilda Swinton-who has a better voice than face. Seriously. "Grizzly Man" had tape of the descent into madness, and we were able to chart it better and actually see it happened. While "Deep Water" is creepy and the end is very unsettling, it did not have the emotional charge that the Herzog film had. It's interesting and disturbing, but not nearly as powerful. It's an interesting story, though, and even if you have no interest in sailing or boating, it's still good to watch. I know nothing of the sort, and do normally like sailing movies-"Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" still sits painfully with me four years after seeing it-but I recommend "Deep Water" as an fine documentary. Although on any day I would recommend "The King of Kong" as the documentary to see. That's one of the best movies of the year. This is just interesting, but an interesting film is always better than a bad one.