'Submergence' review: Drowning in its own folly
Watching Wim Wenders' Submergence is like going to a luxurious beach resort with a flu.
The sea, the people, and everything else around you are lovely, but all you can do is sit in the comfort of an air-conditioned space, left out and miserable. By the end of the vacation, all you can feel is regret, thinking that the time, money, and effort spent on the gilded experience are utterly wasted.
Scientist and spy
Ocean scientist Danielle (Alicia Vikander) and spy James (James McAvoy) have a more fruitful experience at a Normandy beach resort. They serendipitously meet there. They flirt. They discover that they have a common infatuation with water and how it is a metaphor for subjects that are deep and relevant. They sleep together. They fall deeply in love.
Sadly, they also separate.
Submergence, based on a novel by JM Ledgard of the same title, dwells on the emotional struggles of the two lovers while they are away from each other. Those emotional struggles open up to a lot of things, provoking a play of contrasts between darkness and light, death and life, all in a time where romance feels like an indulgence with all the strife.
It opens with Danielle, on the verge of discovering the existence of life in the deepest and darkest parts of the ocean, distraught and yearning for James, who she can't believe just had the gall to stop returning her calls. As it turns out, James, who was on an undercover mission as a water expert, is held captive by jihadists in Somalia.
Wenders and screenwriter Erin Dignam carved out a numbingly talky film out of that premise.
They chopped the straightforward narrative, serving it in pieces that amount to a rather hollow whole. The film crosscuts between the two lovers' existential crises away from each other while occasionally indulging in flashbacks of them blissfully together that supposedly would give all the pain and pining some semblance of levity. The result is a sluggish love story woefully paralyzed by its attempt to shape something profound out of a condensed plot.
But even with all its verbose meandering, Submergence is still a pretty picture.
Clearly, Wenders, by allowing cinematographer Benoit Debie to conjure images that are easy on the eyes and evocative of visible beauty that overlaps with tragedy, is intent on shaping sensuality. Vikander and McAvoy certainly look the part. They fit the role of beautiful people in an ugly world made to look irresistibly beautiful.
However, everything is just awfully confusing. There seems to be no point to all the jarring contradictions.
Better to stay home
Submergence drowns in its own folly.
It is simply better to just stay home than spend time in a luxurious resort that doesn't allow you to enjoy the glossy escape. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.
Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.