New on Blu-ray, Swedish thriller pits viewers in a desperate underwater struggle of survival and sisterly love
Breaking Surface is now available on Blu-ray from Doppelgänger Releasing.
I was very engrossed with Breaking Surface, an effective Swedish thriller written and directed by Joachim Heden which thrusts its characters and viewers into an urgent survival situation, creating a palpable sense of desperation and panic.
The film’s protagonists are two adult half-sisters from a family of divers, anxiety-ridden Ida, and carefree Tuva, who meet up for a reunion with their cantankerous mother.
(The film is in Swedish and Norwegian. My ears aren’t trained enough to know the difference, but if I understand correctly the sisters are Swedish and the film takes place in neighboring Norway).
The sisters steal away together to the remote Norwegian mountains for one of their shared favorite pastimes, to gear up in scuba suits and take a deep dive in a gorgeous mountain lake. Their day of relaxation turns into a struggle for survival when some falling rocks interrupt their swim, and Tuva is pinned to the floor by a massive boulder with limited oxygen left in her tank.
With few resources and no one else to turn to, the anxiety-ridden Ida must locate her sister in the depths and resurface to find or do anything she can to either free her sister, get help, or buy more time.
At 82 minutes, the films is quite lean and taut. While it doesn’t play out in real time, the sense of immediacy is palpable and you can feel the weight of urgency as each minute and every setback brings Tuva closer to drowning alone at the bottom of a cold lake.
Besides the immediacy of the story’s survival tale, the film is also a look at a fraught sisterhood, taking time to reveal more about the fallout from their mother’s infidelity and divorce, and how Ida fears her own marital struggles will doom her family to a similar fate. Her focus is saving her sister, but this forced actualization against impossible odds is also her scream of defiance against an unyielding universe.
A word of content warning: I don’t usually feel the need to point out this sort of thing, but in this case I feel it’s warranted: the film has a rather upsetting incident of violence in which a dog is killed.
Breaking Surface is available on Blu-ray from the fine folks at Doppelgänger Releasing. The film is presented in its native Swedish and Norgwegian, with English subtitles. My copy came in a pleasing looking transparent case.
Special Features and Extras
This disc is fairly packed, with some neat extras. On foreign films, I tend to enjoy breezier extras that are visually driven and not overly burdened by having a lot of dialogue to read. This disc delivers exactly that, a number of short, easy to watch extras that add up to a pretty respectable look behind the scenes.
VFX Reel (2:32)
Breakdowns of several effects shots showing how the final look was constructed. There are a few CG additions (airplanes, killer whales) and the prevalent illusion of depth underwater, but most of the effects work is very subtle stuff; color timing, backdrop enhancements, weather effects, day for night, and the like.
Underwater Set Construction Timelapse (1:30)
I was rather amazed by this; it never occurred to me that the underwater environs were artificial (even if the necessity is obvious in hindsight). The way they suspend, create, and gradually submerge the set is pretty neat.
Five Questions (1:03)
A relaxed riffing with stars Moa Gammel and Madeleine Martin. The film is itself rather serious, so it’s fun to watch them loosen up and be a little silly.
Cast and Crew Interviews (3:10)
Brief thoughts from the lead cast, writer-director, diving coordinator, and underwater cinematographer
Shooting the Propeller Scene (0:50)
Showing how an early action sequence was constructed.
Lights, Camera, Brussels (0:38)
Not a reference to Belgium, but rather the secret ingredient for giving the water a cloudy appearance for realistic underwater scenes.
Breaking Surface Trailers
A full US trailer (1:35), 30-second spot (:32), and 60-second spot (1:02). English subtitled.
The disc also includes promotional trailers for Ema (4:54), Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (1:45), North Face (1:47), Phil Tippet: Mad Dreams and Monsters (2:15), and Summer of ‘85 (1:41)
Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.