THE DIVER INSIDE

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by Günter Schwaiger

grade: 7.5

The Diver Inside is a film made up of silences, of confidences, of meaningful dialogues. All this is enriched by a real fascination for the art world in all its aspects, through the creation of stop-motion short films – with hands shaping and repositioning figures made of plasticine – as well as through jazz music composition.

Mother and daughter. Father and son.

In 2018, Austria is the nation with the highest number of feminicides and domestic violence. This rather shocking news makes this issue more topical than ever and, as we can well imagine, has also caught the attention of the world of the seventh art. In this regard, the feature film The Diver inside – made in 2019 by Günter Schwaiger and which was supposed to be part of the Diagonale 2020, but which, following the cancellation of the festival, has been included in the programme Diagonale 2020 – The Unfinished – stages the story of a single reality that could, however, also be the story of numerous other people who have been involved in such situations in spite of themselves.

This, then, is the story of Irene (played by Franziska Weisz, the unforgettable protagonist of Jessica Hausner’s Hotel), a Viennese woman who has been living in Ibiza for years with her daughter Lena (Julia Franz Richter), recently eighteen and who seems to have finally found her way in creating stop-motion animated films. Between them there is a deep affection and respect, yet in the lives of the two women, there is a shadow that undermines their serenity: at the end of a long troubled relationship with Paul (Alex Brendemühl), Irene has decided to denounce him following some beatings. The man – father of young Robert (Dominic Marcus Singer), who due to his father’s behaviour has developed a personality disorder that leads him to commit acts of self-harm – returns to Ibiza after years in order to sell the house that belonged to his ex-wife, and will, however, attempt to get back in touch with her.

It is interesting to observe how Günter Schwaiger’s camera focuses on each individual character and their everyday life, creating an overall intimate and contemplative atmosphere. He is not afraid, the director, to take his time. What he is mainly interested in is the very psychology of the characters, their emotions, their way of looking into their past and relating to their affections and interpersonal relationships. This is also due to a location that – despite representing the lively and frenetic Ibiza – seems almost a world apart, isolated from everything and everyone, The Diver Inside is a film made up of silences, confidences, and meaningful dialogues. All this is enriched by a real fascination for the art world in all its aspects, through the creation of stop-motion short films – with hands shaping and repositioning figures made of plasticine – as well as through jazz music compositions (Paul himself is an appreciated composer).

Yet, the drama is there. And one can feel it whenever the camera lingers on the faces of the protagonists and the nervousness that emerges from them. And one never knows exactly when this nervousness is ready to explode.

Photographs and old cameras secretly filming elegant bodies from behind the curtains of a window, spacious and elegantly furnished rooms – which, however, sometimes seem far too claustrophobic – characterise the stylistic approach of The Diver Inside. And then, last but not least, there is water. Water seen as a source of life, capable of giving life to something new, as well as symbolically leading to death. Water – and, specifically, the sea – as the only place where one can really breathe, where, finally, one can feel truly free. Just as happens to young Robert during his dives in Spain. All this is achieved by a skilful and meticulous mise-en-scene, which is reminiscent of the cinema of the unjustly mistreated Paolo Franchi, in which every single character emerges thanks above all to an accurate psychological and emotional analysis.

Günter Schwaiger, then, knows his stuff. And he proves it to us right to the end, complete with a symbolic and meaningful image of Robert drifting out to sea with his father Paul. It is only a pity that, at the end of the feature, a caption intended to illustrate the issue of domestic violence in Austria makes the entire work lose its power. Because, in fact, the images here are worth a thousand words. Simply. Without the need for further explanation.

Original title: Der Taucher
Directed by: Günter Schwaiger
Country/year: Austria / 2019
Running time: 94’
Genre: drama
Cast: Franziska Weisz, Julia Franz Richter, Alex Brendemühl, Dominic Marcus Singer
Screenplay: Günter Schwaiger
Cinematography: David Azcano
Produced by: Günter Schwaiger Filmproduktion, Extrafilm

Info: the page of The Diver inside on the website of the Diagonale; the page of The Diver inside on iMDb