Updated: Nov 1, 2020
Written & Directed by: #VictoriadeMartin
Film Review by: Chris Buick
Having already tackled a diverse range of subjects such as rivalling ballet dancers, romance clashing with obligation in 18th century America and a young woman inheriting her late grandmothers dream interpreting business, highly-accomplished New York writer/director Victoria deMartin is back with yet another example of her incredible versatility as a filmmaker and storyteller.
DeMartin’s latest enigmatic #shortfilm Skindiving follows Caitlin (Piccoli), an avid skin diver (swimming under water without a portable breathing device) during her last days on the island where she is currently residing, looking to finally leave her old life behind in the hopes of starting anew before her past catches up with her again.
It’s a film that certainly sets itself up in the most promising way, instantly alluding to a great deal of mystery just under the surface, but viewers expecting to come out the other side with any clear and definitive answers may want to prepare themselves. Neither the minutiae of Caitlin’s past nor the veracity of her present are ever truly revealed and with Skindiving, it seems that deMartin is quite happy to intentionally leave as much of her film as open to interpretation as possible, an attitude that looks to echo the film's opening Robert Henri quote;
“Why do we love the sea? It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.”
It’s risky, but it is certainly an approach that a talented and efficient writer such as deMartin is more than capable of pulling off, and the most viewers will be more than happy to mull over the specifics and revisit time and time again hoping to find something new.
But in its efforts to maintain its perpetual sense of mystery, and with dialogue at a minimum compared to the deMartin’s other works, Skindiving suffers slightly without some of the humour and heart that runs through the veins of Knick-Knacks and Winter Rye to give this particular film just a little bit of jolt. However, those fortunate enough to have enjoyed any of the aforementioned gems in deMartin’s filmography will see a number of welcome recurring themes from the filmmaker's diverse work at play here such as crisp, stunning visuals, strong and engaging female characters and a clear intention to always try and produce something different.
Performance-wise, having previously worked with deMartin on 18th century romance drama Winter Rye, Piccoli’s measured turn as Caitlin really serves the films sense of mystery well, making us search each complex expression for any sort of clue as to what might be hiding behind those secret-filled eyes and Piccoli’s talents are clear, even if this particular role might not always give her the room to really show that off. Finally, with this being Caitlin’s story, the presence of the supporting players is fairly limited to providing what little backstory we are privy to but manage to deliver adequately when called upon.
Although it may lack some of the deeper emotional beats or humorous bites of deMartin’s previous efforts, with its highly subjective and concise script and applaudable technical achievements, Skindiving is another fine film from an obscenely talented filmmaker always looking to push their craft into new directions.
Watch the trailer for Skindiving here: