DVD Review – Submergence

Submergence is the latest film from Wim Wenders, who during the period from the ’70s to the early ’90s made countless masterful films, such as Paris, Texas or The American Friend. However, something happened after The End of Violence that made Wenders’s narrative filmmaking take a serious downturn, and his documentary work started to get far more acclaim. His contemporary, Werner Herzog, had a similar thing happen to a much lesser extent, but even his worst features have enough Herzogian madness to make them deeply fascinating.

Submergence stars Alicia Vikander and James McAvoy, both of whom have done good work in the past. But besides the chance to work with a legend of world cinema like Wim Wenders, it’s safe to say that this film is not one they will remember fondly. They play a pair of lovers: she is a bio-mathematician who is about to have a big expedition into the depths of the sea, and he is an hydraulic engineer. The two met in France, and although they hit it off, their various jobs split them apart. Still, they plan to stay in touch and meet up. But then his work takes him to Somalia, where he is suspected to be a spy (which he may or not be) by jihadist terrorists and is kept captive and tortured. She is waiting for that text message to come…

Wenders loves genre film, but one of the problems he has always faced is that he has always been far too “arty” for his own good. As a result, he can’t submit to the genre conventions long enough to make the film a satisfying watch. This movie, for example, is a mishmash of spy thriller, underwater adventure and an overwrought long-distance love story, but he never knows what film he wants it to be. Jim Jarmusch, who is a friend, fan and contemporary, and whose work is often compared to Wenders’, also plays around with different genres in unique ways. The difference is that Jarmusch has such an individual, identifiable style that he is totally in control of the film and never loses focus on that.

It’s soul-crushingly boring as well. The two leads are perfectly fine in their roles, but they have absolutely no chemistry. The two actors clearly only had a couple days of filming together, so no visible bond developed… which is kind of key to a convincing “love story.” Supposedly Charlotte Rampling appears in the film, but I can’t remember who she played for the life of me—which says a lot about the film. If you’re a Wenders completist, it’s obviously a must, but given that he has been basically irrelevant for decades at this point, that’s a small minority of viewers.

The DVD disc I received for review purposes has no special features, I can’t confirm if the Blu-Ray has any, but I would assume that it doesn’t.

Ian Schultz

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