Starring: Patrik Grönqvist, Kai Känkänen, Sami Paakkarinen
Director: Juan Reina
Running Time: 82 mins
Diving Into The Unknown (Takaisin pintaan) is a Finnish documentary about a team of cave divers who, after losing two of their friends while inside an underwater cave, set out to retrieve the bodies.
Extreme sports and perilous undertakings are always a fantastic subject for documentaries, but Diving Into The Unknown takes that premise and brings a whole lot more gravitas to the table, with a very emotional look at a story of friendship and brotherhood, as well as an insightful analysis into the professionalism and expertise required to take part in such an arduous and significant retrieval mission.
Before I get into all that, however, I will say that if you’re a total novice to the world of cave diving – like I am – then I’m glad to say that you won’t be entirely left behind by this documentary. Prior to the key story that focuses on the mission to retrieve the bodies of two lost colleagues, there’s a detailed and intriguing period of exposition that demonstrates the risks and considerations that have to be taken into account while cave diving, and that it’s far from a sport to do on a casual day outing.
I will say that the film does well to give you the lowdown on just how perilous the activity can be, although when it comes to some of the more technical aspects of equipment and diving technique, the film often does become a little less easy to understand. It’s not an obstacle to the main story, but it misses out on enhancing your experience of following the dive take place.
If you’ve seen the recent documentary hit Free Solo, then you’ll know that having a good understanding of everything that’s going on during an arduous trek can immerse you in the story ten times deeper, and that’s unfortunately where Diving Into The Unknown occasionally comes a little unstuck, and misses out on delivering a similar experience to the likes of Free Solo.
With that said, Free Solo isn’t just about scaling cliffs, there’s also an emotional depth to the film, and that’s something that Diving Into The Unknown does very well throughout. As much as the film tries to focus on the nature of cave diving, it’s first and foremost a very personal piece that looks at the will to honour friendship and duty even after a tragedy.
So, we start the film with the dive that unfortunately went wrong, and then delve into the emotional impact that it had on those who came back safely, to the point that they would defy the authorities and all legal instructions to go and retrieve the bodies of their submerged colleagues, something that proves to be really powerful.
In that, Diving Into The Unknown often succeeds where other documentaries fail, in that it’s not just a factual account of an event, but one that delves deep into the psyches and feelings of those involved, and craft a riveting emotional narrative that you can connect to on a human level, rather than just watching and learning facts.
Overall, I was impressed with Diving Into The Unknown. Above all a strikingly emotional piece that outdoes the simple need for facts, it’s an intriguing watch throughout, with a detailed and often coherent, albeit occasionally a little inaccessible description of the world of cave diving. For those familiar with the sport, then this film will certainly pack a strong punch, and for everyone else, it still proves a great watch, albeit somewhat difficult to really get to grips with at times, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3.