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FILMS / REVIEWS Spain / Austria / Germany

Review: The Diver Inside


- With his first fiction film, Austria’s Günter Schwaiger sounds the alarm on how abuse also causes profound collateral damage in children

Review: The Diver Inside
Àlex Brendemühl in The Diver Inside

Standing out among the special screenings at the fifth edition of the IbizaCineFest – Ibiza International Independent Film Festival, which kicks off (online, for the time being) on Friday 26 February (see the news), is the German-Austrian-Spanish co-production The Diver Inside, directed by Günter Schwaiger. Eight years ago, the filmmaker released the award-winning documentary Marta’s Suitcase, in which he delved into the dark, murky waters of gender-based violence. Once again, it is this thorny subject, which is sadly very topical right now, that constitutes the main plotline of his first fiction film, starring Franziska Weisz, Julia Franz Richter, Dominic Marcus Singer and Àlex Brendemühl.

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Here, the lead actor from Falling Star [+see also:
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interview: Luis Miñarro ­
film profile
plays Paul, a successful musician accused of abuse by his former partner, Irene. While he awaits the date of the trial, he lives in a luxurious villa on Ibiza together with his son, Robert, a sensitive boy who simultaneously acts as a helper and virtually a servant. The young boy still maintains a strong emotional bond with Lena, Irene’s daughter, who dreams of studying in Vienna. Meanwhile, all of the tension being generated by their parents is starting to have an irreversible effect on them…

Illustrated with animations courtesy of Cristina Guisado García, The Diver Inside shines a spotlight on a subject that’s not always sufficiently well explained: the children of abusers and their victims – especially when they are at particularly sensitive ages – find it difficult and painful to accept what is happening, and this has an impact on them as a by-product, causing profound psychological damage that is hard to detect and rectify. This is why the Austrian director – now resident in Spain and also the writer of the screenplay for this movie – has opted not to exaggerate or turn this condemnation into a tear-jerking melodrama, even though he is portraying something that is as abhorrent as it is unacceptable.

As a brush stroke adding some fine details to the main characters’ personalities, the abuser lives in a spacious, cold environment dominated by straight lines, whereas the victim lives in a small, cosy white house on Ibiza. The ambiguous characters are portrayed as people who are dependent on their exes, and who are slaves to their insecurities, emotions, personalities and (occasionally unwholesome) habits. Because, in addition, the perpetrator of the abuse is not content just to humiliate his partner: his lack of empathy will lead him to commit the same atrocious crimes on whatever surrounds him, in his eagerness to manipulate on his quest for power, control and the submissiveness of others. And that toxicity ends up being all-consuming.

Helping to lend credibility to this enormously complex conflict are a solid cast, a tense atmosphere and the ever-beautiful Ibiza – depicted as a place that is down to earth, and the mirror opposite of your traditional bright and breezy picture postcard.

The Diver Inside is a production by Günter Schwaiger Film Produktion. Its Austrian distribution is handled by Filmladen.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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