Dutch Kiki Bosch sits in her car, shivering, her skin blue. Eyes closed; she calmly explains to the documentary crew that despite appearances, she is fine. The cold blood at her extremities is mixing with the warm blood in her core, bringing its temperature down and leading to her current situation. Again, she assures everyone that she is fine. There’s potentially good reason to feel concerned though. Before being in the vehicle, Kiki Bosch has just spent an extraordinarily long-time swimming in some of the coldest water in the world, wearing nothing but a regular bathing costume. For some, the contemplation of taking a cold bath is torture. However, for Bosch, freediving into icy depths is not just a career, it’s part of a continuous journey into expanding her mindset.
Directed by underwater cameraman, Nays Baghai, Descent allows Bosch to sit down and tell her story. Starting off as a psychology student, she discovered the joys of freediving, and she was soon taking tour groups around Thailand. Sadly, she was raped by a colleague who would go on to do the same to someone else. This, unsurprisingly, led to a downward spiral for the freediver. Feeling guilty for not reporting her rapist and blaming herself for the assault, Bosch goes on to associate her freediving hobby with what she went through.
Descent captures Bosch casting off the oppression of being a victim and being reborn as an ice free diver. For Bosch, plunging into cold water helps her focus. Those familiar with the practice of mindfulness will recognise a strain of this in her swimming. Jolted by the cold, she remains acutely aware of where she is at that given moment, not the future and certainly not the past.
Bosch’s lo-fi narration accentuates the gorgeous scenes of clear blue seas and lakes. As the audience, we’re introduced to a whole new way of seeing the world. And just in case we’re too swept away in its majesty, Descent reminds us how dangerous it can be by telling us about Bosch nearly dying of hyperthermia while shooting a short film.
The key theme for Descent is ‘uplifting’, so we’re never allowed to ponder too long on what propels someone to test their body to this extent. Even when Bosch admits that doctors have told her she could lose her sight, Descent never asks us to question her methods.
Is that a bad thing? No, not necessarily. However, it does have the potential to paint an unrealistic picture of trauma/depression treatment. Just going for a run doesn’t automatically cure your anxiety, for example. For Bosch, freediving has allowed her to expand her mindset and reset her thinking. And then in the last minutes, we’re introduced to her new career as a Wim Hof method instructor, and the documentary essentially turns into a paid advert for the practice; the camera lingers on PowerPoints and graphics in her lectures, souring the au natural feeling of the overall documentary.
Is that a cynical note to take away from the whole thing? Perhaps. However, it doesn’t distract too much from Baghai’s direction and camerawork. Seriously, it needs to be seen at the highest definition. Bosch’s story, too, is one of reclamation and rebuilding. She was dealt a miserable hand, and she managed to rise above it. Given the current state of affairs, you can’t begrudge anybody for trying to find their place in the world and successfully doing so. More power to her and others like her.
COVID is a time of many things, including creating pointless lists. Stephen Vagg came up with his ten favourite years in Australian cinema. It’s purely subjective, and please don’t get huffy if your film/year is left out.
He may have been a late starter, but Ben Mendelsohn stole the show in the insightful and entertaining Q&A with director David Michôd, and stars Joel Edgerton and Jacki Weaver, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Australian classic, Animal Kingdom.
Created by its stars, Steven Carnuccio and Domenic Di Mento, this wry 5 episode series about aspiring young actors, also features Erin Connor (Occupation), Waseem Khan (Fat Pizza), Cramer Cain (The Straits), Maha Wilson (Ali's Wedding) and Bonnie Ferguson (upcoming Moon Rock for Monday), directed by Aaron Warwick (feature Beast No More). Get on board, it was made for you!
Ah, adolescence! The growth spurts, the puberty, the perfect storm of hormones. Many of us who have escaped its clutches are unlikely to want to go back any time soon. And yet, who could possibly turn down a teen coming of age flick? Predominately seen as an American cinematic tradition (Thank you, John Hughes), Australia has undoubtedly given as good it’s got. Take a look at old school classics, such as Puberty Blues, Looking for Alibrandi, The Year My Voice Broke and Flirting. And the well doesn’t appear to be running dry yet, with the likes of Samson and Delilah, Girl Asleep, Bran Nue Dae, Bilched and Breath among others.
About an Age, from directors Harley Hefford and Evan Martin, is a more restrained approach to the genre than those raised on the adventures of Ferris Bueller and The Breakfast Club may be used to. Set on a warm Friday evening, as the end of Year 12 comes hurtling over the horizon, a group of friends gather to have a few beers while the parents are away. The ensemble is a collection of teen tropes: the jocktastic Dave (Eddie Orton), his sensitive sister Michelle (Rachel Lee), her hipster boyfriend Jackson (Daniel Cockburn), the nerdy Brett (Keith Purcell) and the flirtatious Sarah (Ashley Stocco).
There was a period in all our lives when adulthood was our number one pursuit, and the film accurately reflects that time. Aside from a slightly misjudged soliloquy in the film’s final hurdle, About an Age keeps the teens’ dialogue nice and natural. Cue discussions about unhooking bras, sex and the future. Sometimes funny, often cringey in its authenticity, it’s easy to relate to the onscreen young ones.
Often mentioned and rarely seen is Laura (Fredricka Arthurs), who stalks around the narrative like a spectre at the feast. Laura is everything the gang don’t want to be; she’s ‘weird’, stand-offish. Hell, she still uses cassettes! Her presence – or lack of it – acts as a tonic to the drunken jubilation. At one point, through no fault of her own, she becomes the catalyst for a bout of petty bullying that quite rightly makes you feel sorry for someone you know nothing about. In our adolescence, we were idealistic and free, but we could also be vicious and petulant at the drop of a hat. It works to the film’s strengths that Hefford and Martin ensure they don’t shy away from this pettiness, which leads to real consequences.
Overall, About an Age genuinely feels like a pleasant evening with your mates, one which is likely to stir up your hornet nest of a memory. It may even have you reaching out to some old friends and making plans to relive schoolies.