My first encounter with a Wim Wenders felt as though I had entered a dream-like state. His films have garnered a reputation for being entrancing, you almost feel at ease without ever knowing why that is. As a key figure in transforming German cinema in the past, I must admit to myself that it has been a bumpy transition to the 21st century for him, his films haven’t had the success they once did. But, his wisdom of film is unparalleled. That same wisdom is what I was looking for in Submergence. The bumpy road continues for Wim, but the encapsulation of attention is not lost.
The intended state of mind is not lost, whilst taking in the film I felt as though I was in a vacuum where it was just me and the screen. This is the result of soft cinematography with masterful framing. Just through the positioning of the camera, I could feel the delicacy that goes into every shot and every movement. Some of the locations in Submergence are captured both beautifully and harshly as the film juxtaposes from the far North Sea to the eastern coast of Africa
What Submergence is primarily, is a romance film between Danny (Alicia Vikander) a biomathematician and James (James McAvoy) an agent disguised as a water engineer. Their romance together is intense enough to make its audience pay attention to them as the film is essentially a two-person story, with none of the side characters seeming to have any impact on the narrative. Their romance evolves in a very realistic nature, they talk in a way that the dialogue relates to the intended metaphors and tone, but more importantly, makes Danny and James’ blossoming romance boundless. I thoroughly enjoyed their relationship with a highlight being that these two are intellectually compatible. Danny is obsessed with her work and James’ questioning makes her realize things about her work that she hasn’t thought of before.
There is a lot of ocean talk in this film, some might even say too much, but whatever their thoughts, it is an essential requirement to translate the deep thoughts of Wim Wenders through his characters. The film spends a lot of time talking about the layers of a body of water explaining the light to dark zones, which is a great piece of subtle foreshadowing as both characters metaphorically travel through light and darkness at some point in the film. when Submergence shows us these sequences, you get to really appreciate the editing as the film pieces together each character’s experiences through the means of dissolves and match cuts.
The unique style of Wenders is appreciated; however, I feel like he is still relying on an old style of filmmaking to get his point across. Audience attitudes have evolved since the New German Cinema movement, but Wenders has not changed with them. This becomes very clear in Submergence as it feels like the ambition that was there is his other films like Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas has gone. One can argue that this old style of filmmaking is nostalgic, harkening back to a time when cinema was more expressive and bold, but expressiveness and boldness have taken on new meanings and something must be changed to Wim Wenders’ style so that all audiences can appreciate his mastery, films like Submergence shouldn’t be restrictive, they need to be open.
The film itself suffers from a big genre identity crisis. We spend time on the romance which is arguably the more engaging storyline, but we also get elements of a thriller and geopolitical related drama. Its almost as though the writers had the source material but we’re still deciding on how to handle the intensity of the story. Half of the film is following Danny and James, but in the other half, we only get tiny moments that harken back to their short time together. We see them as individuals for too long and not enough is done in showing how their encounter has changed them. it would have been masterful to see Danny go from being interested in her work to a different place, but she still seems to be the same character at the start as she did at the end.
Submergence goes against what cinema today is. This is not a film that is meant to be enjoyed, to fully embrace the intricacies of Submergence it must be listened to. Wim Wenders hypnotizes the senses just like he has done throughout his career, but Submergence is the unfortunate reminder that audiences have moved on so he himself must move on. That needs to change, but what should remain the same is the breathtaking visuals and images. Submergence knows how to comfort its audience, but that experience is all it has to offer. I would recommend it just for the experience alone, but I can’t promise the same for the actual story that gets lost along the way.
Final Result: 5/10 – Average
Have you seen Submergence? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Solo: A Star Wars Story