Havarie is a curious beast. Once the viewer becomes accustomed to the fact that the grainy image of a group of men adrift in a small dinghy is all there will be in terms of visuals, the film will either repel them or immerse them. There really is not much to see, and it’s a bold move to take a three-minute clip of the men awaiting rescue and to slow it down until it fills the 93-minute running time. Their identities are never fully revealed, nor are they particularly relevant. The reasons for how these men came to find themselves in the ocean between North Africa and Spain are never more than vaguely alluded to, entirely via a variety of voiceovers.
The film incorporates radio communications between the cruise ship that originally spotted them and the Spanish authorities who are scrambling to reach the men. It’s unknown why the cruise ship didn’t simply pick them up, and is probably a matter of maritime law that director Philip Scheffner deemed to be unimportant.
The viewer also hears from the men’s families, some of whom have already made it to Europe, although they didn’t find the certainty they were seeking. There is also audio from those on the boat who spotted the dinghy, and from those who made a similar journey. There are mentions of an escape from terror and hopelessness, but this information is hardly a revelation. No clear reason is given for the forced migration, because clarity and logic are in short supply here. It’s certainly not logical to try and cross an ocean in a tiny leisure boat, unless its occupants are suffering overwhelming desperation.
As the slowed-down image of the dinghy moves across the screen, blurring in and out of focus and always surrounded by the deep ocean, an audible click can sometimes be heard as the film moves from frame to frame. The sense of urgency and fear is undeniable, and Havarie makes for a powerful viewing experience.
Havarie does not yet have an official UK release date.
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For further information about the 66th Berlin Film Festival 2016 visit here.