Submergence (2018)


Directed by Wim Wenders
Country: Germany / USA / other

72-year-old Wim Wenders is one of the inevitable figures of the European cinema. His work includes masterpieces such as “Paris Texas”, “Wings of Desire”, “Kings of the Road”, and “Alice In the Cities”, which deserved all the accolades they got. However, the current phase of his directorial career is not so strong, with the fictional films failing to match the much more compelling documentaries like "Pina" and "The Salt of the Earth". This fact hampers him from standing out again as a primary filmmaker.

Based on the novel of the same name by J.M. Ledgard and with a questionable adaptation from Erin Digman (“The Last Face”), “Submergence” depicts a bitter memory of a fine romance lived in the French Normandy between Danielle Flinders (Alicia Vikander), a biomathematician, and James Moore (James McAvoy), a Scottish agent under the cover of a water engineer. While she is on the verge of embarking on a pioneering diving into the deep Atlantic in a submersible to collect valuable samples, he is heading to East Africa in a classified mission. Once there, Somali jihadist fighters make him a hostage, and torture becomes a painful endurance.


Immersed in flashbacks, the drama lacks intensity, being progressively engulfed by irregular, often dispassionate waves of longing. The anguished Danielle can’t focus on her work since James became unreachable. In her mind, she questions if he just lost interest in her or is simply stuck somewhere with no communication. Yet, after some time, she lets go the latter possibility. James’ imprisonment, filled with numerous backs and forths and torturous oscillations, fails to engage us in its dualities: friend or enemy, salvation or perdition, compassion or aggression. Also, the pace doesn't facilitate our empathy.

The episodes involving the characters have no other link tying them besides the ephemeral love affair, and Wenders couldn’t avoid falling into a protracted, unexciting, and often sloppy exercise that never brought much satisfaction or hope.

The emotional agitation resultant from lovesickness could have pushed the film forward, but the heavy-handed narrative together with Spanish-born Fernando Velázquez’s annoying score make us all stuck too, waiting for the pointless ending to arrive.