Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Deep Water' Is See-Worthy Fare

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Deep Water' Is See-Worthy Fare

Article excerpt

"Deep Water," and the impressions it leaves, can't be shaken for hours, even days, after it's viewed.

Louise Osmond's and Jerry Rothwell's intensely felt documentary account of the bizarre adventure of sailboat racer Donald Crowhurst is no less than the film equivalent of a great Joseph Conrad story - a descent into the extremes of human will, self-delusion, and madness in confrontation with the wildest of natural worlds. It is unquestionably the best film of its kind since Werner Herzog's "Grizzly Man."

Going into this "Deep," North American audiences are at a particular advantage - especially over their British and continental counterparts - for not knowing so much about the Crowhurst saga: It's one of those campfire tales that's never more powerful than on a first listening. (For that reason, this review will refrain from revealing too much.) In this way, the film resonates in similar fashion to such accounts of everyday people in extraordinarily dangerous situations as Jon Krakauer's chilling account of the 1996 Mt. Everest tragedy, "Into Thin Air."

The triumphant 1967 round-the-world solo voyage by Francis Chichester (stopping only once in Australia) had brought much glory to Brittania at a time when patriotic fervor was in short supply. The Sunday Times of London pushed that fervor higher with the offer of a 5,000-pounds prize for the first nonstop solo sailing voyage, set to launch in the fall of 1968.

While the contest predictably drew the world's tiny sailing elite, including French master Bernard Moitessier and rival Robin Knox-Johnston, the wild card entry was Crowhurst, who had never competed at such a high level. (It was later revealed that Crowhurst's experience was barely above that of a weekend sailor.)

The very unlikelihood of Crowhurst in such a group is story enough, and what intrigues filmmakers Osmond and Rothwell in the early stages of the adventure is the orchestrated public relations campaign - massaged by The Times - to boost Crowhurst as an everyman figure. …

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