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Some of the most difficult journeys are the ones we make alone. Totally alone. Donald Crowhurst's journey was made before satellite positioning. When he sails over the horizon he is, in effect, alone with the universe. His mission: to be the first or the fastest to sail around the world non-stop.
"We are all human beings and we all have dreams." Such are the first words of Deep Water. The sea of troubles that Crowhurst encounters are more than just physical. In this spellbinding documentary, we see the daunting adventure that he and some of the other competitors undertake. We experience the different ways they come to grips with intimidating loneliness and horrifying psychological pressures.
Personally, I can't swim. I don't particularly like water and my Kiwi friends make fun of me. But even the waves of the best made Hollywood pictures come with a comfort zone of music, reassuring dialogue or other reminders that it is 'all pretend'. Not so with Deep Water. Bleak opening credits leave us in no doubt of the cruel and relentless nature of the sea - the physical and also the mental challenge. A friend of mine, a few years ago, sailed around the world with a very small group of other people, all experienced yachtsmen. When she came back, it was several years before she was herself again.
Deep Water starts in 1967. Francis Chichester has just circumnavigated the globe on his own, but with a brief stop in Sydney. The Sunday Times announces a competition for sailing single-handedly around the world non-stop. Crowhurst enters, with not only glory but the financial fortunes of his family at stake (having mortgaged his house). But as his wife says, "There is a moment when an opportunity arises - and if you don't grasp it, that's that." They are noticeably worried about the outcome. Last minute preparations are been rushed. Later we will find only one of the original nine final contestants ever returns.
Bernard Moitessier, within reach of the end and possible victory after six months alone at sea, discovers he has found peace in the vast loneliness. He changes course to begin a second circuit. Something inside him changes. Something changes inside Crowhurst too, but for him the inner journey is far more turbulent.
Deep Water, beautifully narrated by Tilda Swinton, is a moving and totally absorbing account of one man who gets in over his head both physically and morally. The small boat becomes a microcosm for life where a person has to find their own rules. Crowhurst's journey is not the journey of Sunday Times heroes, but of a man. His dilemma is dangerously easy to identify with. This is an incredibly moving story - if you don't already know the historical details, do see the film first.
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