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by Rupert Henning

grade: 7

Deep Water Diver under the Rooftop tells us a particularly sensitive story, now through the point of view of the children, now through that of their mother, through a light and visually appealing staging. At the Diagonale 2024.

Unity is strength

Always interested in the world of children – or, better still, in the world observed from a child’s point of view – director and screenwriter Rupert Henning has recently had much success with his feature film How I taught myself to be a Child (2019). And so, a good five years afterwards, here he is at the Diagonale 2024 with Deep Water Diver under the Rooftop, presented as an ORF premiere.

In Deep Water Diver under the Rooftop, therefore, we once again see children as protagonists of dramatic events, who, nevertheless, with their wit and lightness, are able to cope with any problem. And often, in solving such problems, they prove to be even stronger than adults. This, then, is the case of Lena (played by Ariana Stöckle) and Tino (Leopold Pallua), who live in a large apartment block on the outskirts of Vienna together with their mother Annie (Martina Ebm) and, when the weather is fine, they use to go up to the roof of their building with her to enjoy the sunset, relax and observe the habits of their more bizarre neighbours.

Annie, for her part, is happy together with her children. Yet, this happiness seems to end soon, since her ex-husband (Hanno Koffler) has just moved back to Vienna and would like to have sole custody of their daughter Lena. Following this, when she wakes up in the morning, Annie has the impression that she is in a room full of water. Suddenly the atmosphere changes, strange noises are heard in the house and she could spend hours staring at the open refrigerator without doing anything. The panic attacks become more and more frequent. What to do?

Deep Water Diver under the Rooftop, therefore, shows us how friendship and solidarity can solve even the most unsolvable problems. In the apartment building of the three protagonists live several people, all apparently very different from one another. Yet when it comes to safeguarding a family and the serenity of children, everyone is ready to help those around them. This leads to bizarre and sometimes hilarious situations that contrast well with the moments of crisis experienced by the protagonist.

A seemingly grumpy man turns out to be much more sensitive and generous than he might initially seem. A student is even ready to bake cannabis biscuits to prevent the children’s father from gaining custody of them. And finally, an initially grumpy and introverted young girl soon turns out to be a precious friend. Deep Water Diver under the Rooftop tells us all this, now through the children’s point of view, now through Annie’s, through a light and visually captivating mise-en-scène, where there is no lack of moments in which imagination gets the better of reality, of hilarious scenes (such as when we see an excellent Hanno Koffler in the grip of the effects of cannabis) or of moments of pure poetry. Drama and comedy blend well in an extremely sensitive story and thus give rise to a pleasant and well-made feature film, which first and foremost makes us realise the importance of friendship and helping one’s neighbour while skilfully avoiding any clichés.

Original title: Tiefwassertaucher unterm Dach
Directed by: Rupert Henning
Country/year: Austria / 2024
Running time: 89’
Genre: comedy, family
Cast: Martina Ebm, Hanno Koffler, Neda Rahmanian, Rainer Egger, Marcel Mohab, Emma Filipovic, Leopold Pallua, Ariana Stöckle, Olivia Goschler, Alexander Srtschin, Skye Macdonald, Safira Robens
Screenplay: Rupert Henning
Cinematography: Josef Mittendorfer
Produced by: Gebhardt Productions, WHee Film

Info: the page of Deep Water Diver under the Rooftop on the website of the Diagonale; the page of Deep Water Diver under the Rooftop on the website of the Gebhardt Productions; the page of Deep Water Diver under the Rooftop on the website of the WHee Film