Prompting fond memories of the sensory experience that was Lucien Sastaing-Tyalor & Verena Paravel's Leviathan, Mauro Herce's Dead Slow Ahead is a startling, impressionistic documentary thats observant eye tells a dark story of isolation on board an ocean freighter that goes by the name the Fair Lady. With very little dialogue, Dead Slow Ahead relies completely on its visuals to tell the story of life at sea, delivering a haunting experience that at times stands up to the imagery one would find in any good horror film Dead Slow Ahead transports the viewer completely into this cold, isolated, machinery infested environment, documenting the setting at all times with an impressionistic lens. Dead Slow Ahead is a beautifully photographed film, and I don't just mean in terms of startling imagery, as every frame of this film helps tell the story of this dark, oceanic voyage. Dead Stow Ahead tells a story of utter isolation, with wide compositions that beautifully express the mammoth size of the sea, and the vast sky above, evoking a sense of emptiness on the horizon, a voyage to nowhere for this crew of isolated men, so to speak. Even in the few scenes where the ship does reach landfall, Dead Slow Ahead visually presents the coast as a hazy, foggy, distant location, detached from the ship and the crew on the Fair Lady. The atmosphere of Dead Slow Ahead can be downright nightmarish, presenting the crew as pawns, slaves to the Fair Lady's vast, cold steel. The various creeks of the ship are incessant and exhausting, almost as if the Fair Lady is a mythical creature that the crew serves. What I found so striking about Dead Slow Ahead is how the ship is a character itself, a vessel that has authority over the crew, those that slave away at various machinery to keep operations going. Dead Slow Ahead is very impersonal to the crew through most of the film, almost as if to suggest they merely a part of the ship which they serve. It's only towards the end that that film that it provides more intimacy towards the crew of the ship, though it still evokes a sense that they are at the mercy of this behemoth, steel-made vessel. One sequence towards the end of the film that really stood out involves various crew members calling home. This sequences beautifully expresses the totalitarian control the ship has over the crew, with the filmmakers using a camera that wonders through the machine rooms of the Fair lady, documenting the the tight corridors of the vessel, exploring the steel pipes and dark crevices full of machinery, defining these characters by the environment they inhabit. While the camera wonders, the dialogue of various crew members on the phone provides emotional weight, only strengthening the isolation evoked earlier on a humanistic level. A brooding exploration of isolation at sea, Dead Slow Ahead captures the vastness of the ocean and the harsh conditions of labor in an impressionistic way that should not be missed.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.