Friday, January 11, 2008

Open Water (2003)

What can I say about a film shot on DV and made for about 180K. Open Water is an interesting film about two vacationers getting stuck in the open sea. The film is 79 minutes and it felt even that was too long. Don't get me wrong the film is wonderfully produced, and it brings a certain reality to it that makes it frightening, but as one reviewer said "An expertly made suspense thriller based on an actual incident, but on a visceral level it's about as much fun as watching someone pull the wings off a butterfly".

That little blurb says it all. I came away from the film drained, and yes I did use the fast forward button. I know how could I, but in my defense there are some scenes in the film that seemed to be just filler. I mean if I really wanted to I could make this film shorter, and still be effective. It's a one gimmick film, and when our two protagonists are finally on the water I was hoping that the film would kick in, but it never does. Open Water is a small film that I think would have an audience in the art theater circuit, but as a mainstream film I don't think it works.

What I am impressed about is the making of the film, and how the filmmakers made this film. It was shot all using prosumer DV cameras. I wasn't too happy about the look of the film since I saw a bit of aliasing within the frame, and I'm sure this was because of the DV format being converted into 24 f.p.s so that it could be projected on film.

The two characters also didn't elicit my sympathy. My pity sure, but not my sympathy, and that's due to the one dimensionality of the characters. All I know about them is that their busy young professionals, who really need a vacation. During their time at sea they complain and argue more, and I began wondered why don't they just try and swim for the other boats they saw. I did not know if they were novice scuba divers or not. I know one of the characters tells why it wouldn't do them good to swim for the boats, but I didn't care. It seemed a cop out. Their actions also seemed selfish. Breaking from the group seemed dangerous, and so when they are caught on the open water I thought about what Roger Ebert said about the "stupid decision" plot point. Ebert said that he hated plots that revolved around the character or characters making "bad choices". Had character A not done B he or she would not be in such a situation, and all character A had to do in order to get out of his or her predicament was to make a "good" decision or a number of smart decisions. When a movie makes you think about such things it's already lost me.

Open Water is a good one note movie, but that's all it is, and I always think that for 180k why did they shoot on DV instead of film. I mean the image still would have been better then what they got, and there are light weight 16mm cameras that they could have used. The Aaton XTR model comes to mind for me. I'm sure it would not have been that much more money to shoot had they decided to go the film route. It would have created such a better image. Of course with DV you can shoot more footage, and for a first time filmmaker which Chris Lentis is it may have made sense. Call me a traditionalist, but if you want to make a film that will look good, and have some future due to the ever changing way we present media I think film is still a very viable way to go. That's just the producer talking in me.
Open Water is a "good" film, which has an interesting story, but it fails to capture the audiences sympathy for its characters. The film is after all a one note film that leaves us in silence and not satisfied. I say that because what one of the main characters does in the end seems to be a cop out. I'm not asking for happy endings, but a bit more realism and a bit more characterization into the characters would have helped. The way the film ends now seems weak, and its as though the filmmakers didn't challange themselves enough to find a better ending.

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