Film Reviews

Review: ‘Diving Into the Unknown’

Hot Docs 2016


Diving Into The Unknown
(Finland/Norway, 85 min.)
Dir. Juan Reina
Programme: World Showcase (Toronto Premiere)

You’re unlikely to find a more harrowing documentary this year than Diving Into The Unknown. Tracing a group of renegade cave divers as they attempt to rescue the submerged bodies of a couple of their friends trapped dozens of metres below ground, the film is part adventure tale, part cautionary story, part horror movie.

Shot with a mixture of underwater GoPros, drones and intimately framed digital cameras, the landscape and setting of Northern Norway is presented brilliantly. What sets the film apart is the POV underwater footage, both from the doomed initial attempt at traversing a cave passage as well as the mission to recover the bodies. As an avid diver, I can attest to the real challenge both in the types of dives accomplished in the film as well as the difficulty in capturing images of this quality at these depths. The film’s greatest success is being able to contextualise a highly specialized skillset along with the chaos of recovery, letting it play out coherently for a wide audience.

The film gets to the heart not only of the adventure at hand but the toils on both body and spirit. This isn’t a casual dip in the Caribbean, and the motivation to drive deeper and farther underground is hard to articulate. What’s clear, however, is that this group is motivated in part by a need to recover their comrades, but equally to know that they can accomplish this feat,. They want to get back up on the bucking horse without having their future excursions marred by the horror of the accident hanging over them.

A profound film about plumbing depths both physical and spiritual, Diving Into The Unknown is a unique and compelling work.

Diving Into the Unknown screens:
-Tuesday, May 3 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 3:30 PM
-Sunday, May 8 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 10:30 AM

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit for more information.