Divers are modern day explorers. In their highly technical and psychologically challenging sport they plummet hundreds of metres beneath the surface to discover the beautiful world of underwater caves. Despite the extreme risks involved, the divers aren’t in it for the adrenaline, in fact, such feelings are a diver’s worst enemy. When diving for upwards of five hours calmness and concentration must prevail. ‘Diving Into the Unknown’ is a documentary that sees four divers return to a scene of great tragedy and push themselves to their limits in the search for redemption.

In February of 2008, a team of five Finnish drivers attempted an exploration of the Plura cave system located near the Norwegian town of Rana. However, what should have been a routine dive went terribly wrong and two members of the team died. The bodies of Jari Huotarinen and Jari Uusimaki were left trapped 130m below the surface. Following the incident, the police closed the cave and – after failed rescue missions by professional diving teams –  Huotarinen and Uusimaki were left to remain at the depths of the cave. Director Juan Reina follows the three surviving members (Patrik Gronqvist, Kai Kankanen and Vesa Rantanen) and their friend (Sami Paakkarinen), as they plan a life-threatening and illegal dive to recover their friends’ bodies.

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Reina’s narrative places emphasis on the bond between the men. There has to be incredible element of trust between a team of divers because a lack of concentration from one member can endanger the whole crew. Reina does a fantastic job of capturing the comradeship that compels the drivers to return to the Plura cave. Notably, the team accept that the accident was preventable and the mission to recover the bodies is part of their own grieving process. It is a matter doing things right for their deceased friends but also rehabilitating their own love for the sport of diving.

Reina does not delve far into the personal lives of the divers or the victims of the initial accident. He maintains a distance from these stoic individuals. Although their mission is highly emotive, it is not in the nature of these Scandinavian divers to lay bare their souls. Only through Reina’s probing camera do we truly get up close to the men; focusing on their eyes seems to be the most effective window into their emotions. One particularly striking image is of Gronqvist lifting weights while the story of the accident is being recounted. The tension in his face reveals a combination of intense emotional pain and an inexorable determination.

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To capture the dives Reina strapped GoPro’s to each diver. Although the murky underwater film is understandably limited, it helps add to the tension that is underpinned by Jogn Erik Kaada’s unnerving score. Remarkably, Reina puts together an absorbing sequence of footage that conveys the extreme dangers and hostile conditions that the divers face.

At the start of the film we are posed the question: what is worth dying for? Over the next ninety minutes, ‘Diving Into the Unknown’ answers this question in emphatic and poignant fashion. These men are willing to die for the love of their friends and a passion for their sport. The result is a stirring and memorable piece of cinema.

 

Dir: Juan Reina

Featuring: Patrik Gronqvist, Kai Kankanen, Sami Paakkarinen, Vesa Rantanen

Prd: Juho Harjula

DOP: Tuukka Kovasiipi

Music: John Erik Kaada

Country: Finland

Year: 2016

Runtime: 90 mins