Submergence movie cast: James McAvoy, Alicia Vikander
Submergence movie director: Wim Wenders
Submergence movie rating: 2 stars
This has been described as one of the most accessible of lauded German filmmaker Wim Wenders’s films. For that accessibility though, one member at the heart of this love story (let’s call it that for the sake of accessibility) has to plunge into the deepest depths of the Atlantic Ocean; as the other trawls the pits of Somalia’s ‘jihadi network’.
What is the connection, you may ask? But for two White people exploring worlds far removed from their own? It’s difficult to tell, though the film throws the might of two good actors, some metaphysical questions, some ocean bio-mathematics (there is such a thing, just ask the lichens here under constant probe), a lot of schmoozing by candlelight, and some very, very lame dialogue trying to encapsulate this world, that world, and the other world, all into some words.
And yet, we lend an ear, because within this very confused script is a director capable of mounting lovely frames. He does tremendous justice, of course, to the exquisitely quaint French castle-turned hotel where James (McAvoy) and Danielle (Vikander) meet, by the shore of the Atlantic — a lap of water away from World War 2 remains. He is a British spy headed for Somalia to cut off al-Qaeda and its bombings in Europe. This is what he keeps carefully hidden from her bio-mathematic exertions, which mostly involve her tapping into a laptop as music plays loudly, and wearing glasses to peek closely at sea-grazed rocks. It’s love at mostly first sight, though the sparks are as sodden as the sea they continuously talk about. Danielle is also nervously excited about taking a deep dive into ocean depths in a rare submersible, which the film tries to hint carries with it horrors not unlike the ones James encounters, on being thrown into a nameless jihadi’s custody.
Wenders mounts the film as essentially this contrast, but unsaid similarity, between the positions of James and Danielle, with much too clever cutting between Somalia and a ship. Somalia ends up being a poor prop, with uneducated men, unclean water, women who are stoned to death, and youngsters who are bombed for music. All this is caught in one-scene glimpses, an economy of filming that is in marked contrast to how the camera lingers over lush Iceland, a territory Danielle is traversing at that moment. While constantly checking for phone signal to get James’s call.
For the rest, our Censors are the kill joy. It’s not just that Danielle smokes with a ‘smoking kills’ alert at the bottom of the screen, Danielle and James also do little but talk and cite books behind many closed doors and under many sheets, while an entire row of bottles at a bar is blurred in a scene.
Now that is submergence.