The Dive - FrightFest UK Premiere
Director: Maximillian Erlenwein
Starring: Sophie Lowe, Louisa Krause
Written by: Maximillian Erlenwein, Joachim Hedén
Produced by: Jonas Katzenstein, Maximillian Leo
Cinematography by: Frank Griebe
Original Score by: Volkar Bertelmann, Raffael Seyfried
Two sisters go diving at a beautiful, remote location. One of the sisters is struck by a rock, leaving her trapped 28 meters below. With dangerously low levels of oxygen and cold temperatures, it is up to her sister to fight for her life.
Usually with these kinds of thriller/dramas the threat usually comes from some kind of creature like a shark as we've seen before in the likes of 'The Shallows' or '47 Meters Down' but with 'The Dive' there is a much more grounded and realistic approach as the main threat to their survival is how they cope with conditions beyond their control as they are at odds with fate.
There is no doubting that there is an air of familiarity around the film's setup as it can easily fit in the mold of a film like 'Fall' despite being set in an entirely different location. But what separates it from other films of that ilk is director Maximilian Erlenwein's commitment to realism. The manner in which it is shot and some of the shot compositions in the initial scenes underwater almost feel like they are lifted out of a documentary, which really immerses the audience into the drama when disaster strikes.
Throughout the film the two sisters Drew (Sophie Lowe) and May (Louisa Krause) are practically the only two characters on screen in a pair of physically demanding roles but they seem to relish this aspect of their performance and do a fine job in their respective roles. The main thing that keeps you invested in their performances and the film to a greater extent is the emotion they put into it. By being underwater for most of the film, it is restrictive but it doesn't prevent them from adding some emotional heft to the film, which explores how the pair have drifted apart over the years. Their performances are at their best not when they explore what they say to each other but what they don't through emotional repression, particularly from Krause whose facial tics alone convey how withdrawn May has become.
Their dynamic is established in the drive to their dive location but their differences are further explored underwater as the accident overtly conveys what kind of people they are. May is driven by logic whilst Drew is driven by emotion. Over the course of the film this dynamic shifts to being almost the opposite which adds extra layers to the drama. The great score from Volker Bertelmann and Raffael Seyfried does a lot of work to underline this dynamic as the logical mind of May is conveyed through an ambient soundscape whilst there is a propulsive immediacy to the score as Drew is trying to find a way to rescue her sister.
Their predicament is one of the main reasons why these kinds of films have remained popular over the years. When done well they allow the audience to toy with the question, "what would I do in that situation?" 'The Dive' elicits this kind of reaction thanks to Erlenwein's script (co-written with Joachim Hedén). They follow a very logical approach in how they plot out the drama with May making it clear to Drew everything she needs to do in order to rescue her but obstacles beyond her control are constantly getting in the way. It is a breath of fresh air as these kinds of films put the audience's frustration on the characters for the decisions they make rather than their situation but here it is the opposite.
Another common criticism of underwater based films such as this stems from the fact that they are usually too murky to make out any of the action or to try and figure out who is who. Thankfully this is not the case here as Frank Griebe's work behind the camera is terrific in making everything clear and natural. The use of lighting in May and Drew's helmets works wonders too at highlighting the actors' emotions amidst the dark blue void of the ocean allowing their conversations to feel more personal in such a wide open space. Some of the shots in the ocean are so visually arresting their beauty grabs hold of your attention and refuses to let
A fine piece of work that stands out in a subgenre that is filled mostly with over the top schlock, 'The Dive' is well worth your time seeking out. In the backdrop of a seemingly endless and unforgiving environment Erlenwein explores how a fragmented sibling relationship can be made whole again in light of a tragic set of circumstances in a thrilling manner. With two highly committed performances from Lowe and Krause as well as some beautiful camera and lighting work from Griebe, 'The Dive' is a thrilling and emotional film with a low level yet high stakes backdrop.
- Joseph McElroy
'The Dive' received it's UK Premiere at FrightFest '23 on August 24th