**** Review of “Dark Water” (2006)

This British documentary damages the soul in the same way as Werner Herzog’s “Grizzly Man”, the 2005 documentary about a bear hugging half-wit who got himself gobbled up by a Grizzly. (Err..go back ONE sentence. Ready? SPOILER ALERT!)   Herzog freaked audiences out with bears and mental illness, “Dark Water” does it with a boat and crushing loneliness.

It’s a notable trend in recent documentaries. In the old days, documentaries might teach viewers something, like Civil War history or the emperors of Rome. Sometimes they’d offer a fascinating look at the subculture of early ’60s nudist colonies. Nature documentaries typically featured prancing squirrels and delightful vegetarian cougars named Chip and at the very worst, documentaries might kill a few hoop dreams, no more than that.  “Deep Water”, on the other hand, leaves viewers feeling bereft and hopeless, alone in the cosmos, shaking with existential dread, barely able to swallow their CheeseDoodles®

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It tells the story of Donald Crowhurst, a novice sailor and businessman facing financial difficulties, who decided in 1969 to chuck his staid, bog dwelling British lifestyle and sail around the world non-stop for fame and fortune. A plucky underdog, he seized the day – CARPE DIEM – and became a Fleet Street sensation. The British public swooned over Crowhurst, joyfully a-twitter with pick-a-dilly delight. The cheering crowds gave him a rousing “Tip, Tip-perary!”, the adorable orphans shook their dusty sweeps, and he was ceremoniously saluted with much pomp and circumstance by The Queen’s Most Holiest of Knickers.

Crowhurst and wife before…well…

 

Then, of course, things went south. Turns out, sailing around the whole planet, by yourself non-stop, with just cloth flaps for power is pretty fucking hard.  Stiff upper lip or not, the sea is a cruel mistress, and his boat developed countless problems. His struggles, his diaries and some of the footage he filmed himself, form the heart of the movie.

“I say, chaps, what could go wrong?”

This whole sordid tale is narrated by a vaguely familiar British voice, one suited for  “Jack the Ripper” stuff, and it really gets under the viewers skin. “Deep Water” is quite effective, a four star film, but it leaves one hollowed out inside, staring sadly after the credits, rocking in the fetal position, newly terrified of the water. Your reviewer kept hoping it was some kind of eerie mock-umentary, an elaborate cinematic ‘Punk’d’ thing, but it was all too morbidly true.

So, if  documentaries can teach something, enlighten an audience, what lesson can be taken from this? “Deep Water” doesn’t make the viewer feel very good afterwards – there’s no release as in fiction –  so maybe there is a lesson here.  Well, after much thought, we’ve decided it is ANTE CARPE DIEM:  DO NOT SEIZE THE DAY. Just don’t. Let someone else seize the day – someone who knows what the hell they’re doing. Most people are not qualified to be seizing any days.  Don’t get on boats, EVER,  just as Herzog taught viewers to not EVER monkey around with Grizzly Bears. (If you haven’t seen “Grizzly Man”, and you really shouldn’t, a good capsule description would be “DON’T FUCK AROUND WITH THE GRIZZLY BEAR! GET AWAY FROM HIM! OH MY GOD! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? ARE YOU A MORON? OH MY GOD!)

Frankly, going by the latest documentaries, a person is better off not leaving the house at all, the outdoors are a minefield. UV rays, airborne carcinogens and (undoubtedly) a few loose hippos and rhinos rampaging about. Human beings should stay inside, and if they must take up a hobby, they should take up safe ones, like scrap booking or hook rug. Their doors should remain locked and bolted, lest they be snatched up by hooligans, and one should NEVER to fill the bathtub beyond three inches. A human being can drown in a half an inch of water. Did you know that? Look it up! Some consideration should also be given to a well equipped panic room. (That’s where this review is being written. We never leave the house now. No need. We send the neighbor boy out for supplies and we are so safe now, it hurts inside.)

This is an Instant Watch on Netflix. 4 Stars

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