In the diving thriller shown at the Fantasy Filmfest a few weeks ago BREAKING SURFACE Two half-sisters find themselves in a life-threatening situation. We’ll reveal in our review whether the home cinema release is worth a look.
OT: Breaking Surface (SWE/NOR/BEL 2020)
Shortly after Christmas, Swedish-Norwegian half-sisters Ida (Moa Gammel) and Tuva (Madeleine Martin) want to go on a winter dive together in a remote part of the Norwegian coast. But towards the end of the dive there is a rockfall, whereupon Tuva’s legs are buried under a huge rock. Now Ida has to do everything she can to save her sister – but it’s not just that Tuva is the better diver and now has to give Ida instructions over the radio: Ida is having a gigantic run of bad luck. The rockfall has buried their equipment, phones and car keys – and rescue is nowhere to be seen. A hectic race for the survival of Tuva develops…
The Swedish-Norwegian-Belgian co-production “Breaking Surface” probably wouldn’t have made too many waves in United Kingdom: Scandinavian thrillers without a crime twist simply don’t have a significant level of public perception of films in this country. And the subgenre of diving thrillers is a constantly popular one, but also one that only generates resonance outside of its small niche every year. And then “Breaking Surface” will also be a home cinema premiere in USA-speaking countries. But the new film by “New York Waiting” director Joachim Hedén was at least placed at the Austrian genre festival Slash and at the USA Fantasy Film Festival by local distributor Koch Media. And at this year’s Fantasy Film Festival, which was reduced to just five days and 21 films, “Breaking Surface” made an audible impression – and it certainly deserved it. Because “Breaking Surface” is a plain, straightforward, straightforward thriller in the category “Everything that can go wrong in an outdoor activity goes wrong, and now it’s a matter of life and death,” with cool, beautiful nature shots and two charismatic ones , expressive leading actresses scores. As well as its steep voltage curve.
No one can hear you scream underwater…
The following observation was also made at the Fantasy Film Festival: At the Cologne screening, for example, it was noticeable in the hall how the majority of the hall was following the story with bated breath. But there were also two colleagues who arrogantly snorted at the film several times and talked loudly during the credits about how they “knew all along” that this and that Ida’s attempt would fail and that the film wasn’t supposed to make them feel stupid. To which we would like to answer at this point, rolling our eyes: Who is taking someone for a fool if you want to portray yourself as being overly clever because you suspect that in a film that is about an hour and a half long, all the problems are not sorted out in minute 35? As a very straightforward outdoor thriller that lasts a crisp 82 minutes, “Breaking Surface” inevitably collapses when you sit down in front of the screen (or, for the majority of this film’s audience: in front of your screen) with your arms crossed and say: “Yes, that can’t work yet!” Of course that can’t work yet, this isn’t a short film! “Breaking Surface” isn’t about that “What happens next?”because the next thing is usually another failure, but about that “When will something else finally happen again?”in the sense of: When will Ida win a stage again?
As a very straightforward outdoor thriller that lasts a crisp 82 minutes, “Breaking Surface” inevitably collapses when you sit down in front of the screen with your arms crossed and say: “Yes, that can’t work yet!”
You have to put yourself in the shoes of the overwhelmed half-sister, who is out of her element and tries to save her professional diver sister, and sympathize with her in order to enjoy “Breaking Surface”. What shouldn’t be understood at this point as “You have to do the work for the film” – because unless you approach this production with completely the wrong basic attitude, author/director Joachim Hedén will do everything in his power to get away from it to have a small, fine film packed. Hedén introduces the two central characters very well, through a succinct flashback that establishes the loving but also complicated relationship between them, and through a suspense scene that shows Tuva as a professional diver who is well versed in tough situations comes. This sets up the height of the fall and prepares the dilemma that later the more capable sister will need help. Madeleine Martin (“Aquila’s Secret – In Search of Pirate Treasure”) Tuva plays very charismatic and catchy as mom’s darling, who always has a quick saying on his lips, but behind his joking demeanor there is a clear sense of observation.
Moa Gammel plays Ida.
Moa Gammel (“Heroes of the Arctic Circle”) On the other hand, the more emotional sister is the one who not only suffers from always being number two, but is also currently going through a stressful time with her family – and now she has to act confidently and quickly, even though she is only an occasional diver. A simple, but not dull, constellation of characters that, in combination with the escalation of mishaps during Ida’s rescue attempts, creates great tension. The camera work by Anna Patarakina and Eric Börjeson both above and below the water also makes a major contribution to this – they create icy-cool but clear images that capture the nature of Norway (and also warmer Belgium, which serves as a double in some scenes). Show beauty and potential danger. Composer Patrick Kirst (“The Kissing Booth”) underlines the grueling events, which are completely plausible in themselves, but also require the audience to accept that people sometimes behave stupidly in a completely stressful situation, all the while with an atmospheric, efficient, if not particularly memorable, score.
“A simple, but not dull constellation of characters, which, in combination with the escalation of breakdowns in Ida’s rescue attempts, creates great tension.”
And right at the moment when “Breaking Surface” threatens to overextend itself, Hedén steps out of the film and belts out an upbeat rock song through the end credits so the audience can warm up again after all that time in the ice-cold water and all snowy nowhere. This is completely consistent, because even if “Breaking Surface” has a component that deals with sister dynamics, trust and mutual care, it is primarily a narrowly budgeted, competently made, simple thriller. In, create excitement, out. And Hedén undoubtedly recognizes this.
Conclusion: “Breaking Surface” is a small, fine thriller about two sisters, the pitfalls of nature and a huge dose of bad luck. Grippingly filmed and well acted, “Breaking Surface” gets a lot out of its simple, straightforward basic idea. Clear genre fan home cinema tip!
“Breaking Surface” has been available in home theaters since October 22, 2020.