EDITOR NOTE (July 2010): This article relates to a 2006 early preview version of the movie. The film is being released in July 2010 and a new, up-dated review based on the final edit will be published shortly.
The Greater Meaning of Water is an ambitious first film by recent UCSD graduate Sky Christopherson. Christopherson, a former competitive cyclist, tells a compelling story of what it takes to achieve peak athletic performance with the challenges life presents. While the subject is freediving, the principles and struggles portrayed could easily apply to other sports.
Before I launch into my opinions on the movie a brief introduction is in order. I’m an Arizona based novice freediver/father/cubicle dweller who, if not for the initiative of my generous wife, would not have had a seat at the premier of the film. Put me in the “just happy to be there” category. Excited by the film’s extensive website, I was looking forward to seeing polished freediving story depicted on the big screen. Unfortunately what I saw did not live up to the expectation.
The film centers on Max Avery (Justin Williford) a competitive freediver pursuing a world record. Max has a secret, not revealed until the end of the film, that makes his endeavor all the more difficult. Max’s father has serious reservations about Max’s devotion to freediving. The film focuses on the reasons why Max is chasing a record that requires him to stretch the limits of human performance. The opening scene, a dream sequence, jumps between underwater shots of Max surfacing and then him crawling through a brightly-lit tunnel. It was arty, a bit confusing and unfortunately set the tone for the dry land portion of the movie.
The freediving sequences contain a number of long, wide-shots and are beautifully done. The open water scenes shot in the Caymans during the 2005 WR attempts are breathtaking and worth sitting through the rest of the story. The land-based scenes are populated with hand-held shots and rapid edits that gave the movie a frenetic style. Characters appear without introduction and locations change with no explanation. Perhaps this was due to the short length, but it made the story difficult to follow.
Fifty pounds overweight at the beginning of the project, Justin underwent a training program developed by one of Sky’s training contacts at the U.S. National Training Center. Thanks to the training and support of the Performance Freediving folks, Justin was able to perform all underwater scenes himself. He reached just over 30 meters in CW while training for the film. Due to the project’s limited budget all the diving scenes were done using bi-fins rather than a monofin. While not a distraction to the average viewer, freediving purists will notice.
According to the PR material the edited 45 minute DVD is now available at the film website for pre-order and they intend to hit the major film festivals as well.
I applaud the first effort and wish Sky and co. the best, however I think the main audience that this film will attract will be the core FreeDiving community and a more mainstream film enthusiast may struggle with the material.
You can find out more about the movie on the official website.