There’s much to admire about Wim Wenders’ latest film. A romantic drama starring James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander – a pair of actors who are, if not A-list, certainly banging on the door – Submergence acts as a contemporary update of Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante. Vigo’s film centred on a troubled relationship resolved by a transcendental scene of oceanic immersion where true love was found in the depths. Submergence – which prominently features a ship called the L’Atalante – takes a similar tack.
The romance between a bio-mathematician (Vikander) and a spy masquerading as an engineer (McAvoy), is chronicled in lazy flashback before the pair are separated. Vikander’s character charts a course for the depths of the ocean while McAvoy is taken hostage by jihadists. Like L’Atalante’s lovers, they are drawn together but torn apart; and as in L’Atalante, Wenders finds beauty in the play of light on their forms, the (intended) vibrancy of their connection and the coolness of the sea.
Sadly, Submergence is no L’Atalante. The storyline is rendered tedious by sluggish pacing and tiresome clichés, particularly when terrorists are involved. When our two leads are separated, we should demand that destiny brings them together…but we don’t, and the film suffers for it.