Move over, Björk. With the blockbuster 2 Guns (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) set to explode across U.S. multiplexes this summer, renegade filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur (Contraband) is about to become Iceland’s most popular cultural export. But first, the man once called the “Mayor of Reykjavik” has just released The Deep, an intimate, Icelandic film exploring survival, miracles and the perilous life of fishermen.
What constitutes a miracle?
This question runs through Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur’s most recent film, The Deep, which chronicles the life of Gulli (played pitch perfectly by Olafur Darri Olafsson), a simple man who survives a night in the frigid North Atlantic Ocean after his ship sinks.
The Deep is based on the true story of the trawler Breki that capsized in 1984 off the coast of Iceland’s Westman Islands. Doctors speculated that Gulli, the lone survivor, stayed alive because he was, metaphorically, part seal due to his rotund frame being insulated by a remarkable amount of body fat. An object of fascination to Icelanders, Gulli quickly became a national icon and the subject of intense scientific investigation into why he didn’t die.
In a nation where the economy is tied so heavily to the fishing industry, Gulli’s miraculous story still resonates, even more so now that the country has been forced to redefine its cultural identity since the banking and finance industries precipitated Iceland’s economic collapse in 2008.
“Bankers are not our heroes. They didn’t give birth to our nation. Our fathers and grandfathers aren’t businessmen,” said Kormakur, currently in Los Angeles wrapping up post production on the blockbuster film 2 Guns.
“Our true heroes wear fishing gear and raincoats.”
Observing his country transform from one rooted in the blue collar fishing industry to one dominated by runaway capitalism, Kormakur “felt we had lost our way, so I wanted to make a movie that reminded us of who we are.”