Friday, November 22, 2013

Submarine movies and the art of avoiding what you can't see.

One of my favorite things - say, up there in the top 100, assuming all of us have thousands of favorite things cutting across the spectrum of things to rank - is watching submarine movies. The cramped space and the threat of annihilation at any moment while churning ahead blindly makes for a tense and eminently watchable scenario.

Best of all, to me, is the inevitable scene where everyone goes silent while nervously gazing upward as they await the depth charges that will almost certainly come. I can't help stifling a laugh when that scene finally makes it onscreen. Not because it's funny in itself, but because it's almost always done the same way in every movie, and I admit that I love the familiarity of it. Just as an example, here it is in U-571:
Gotta love it.

Another favorite scene for me is the somewhat less common, but still pretty recurrent, maneuvering blind scene. In this one, the crew has to trust their charts and instruments, and, often enough, the instincts of their skipper, to avoid crashing into something - a submarine net, a submerged mountain, the ocean floor. You get the idea. My absolute favorite of these scenes comes from one of my very favorite movies, The Hunt for Red October:
Add a whole bunch of points for them being chased by a torpedo, to boot.

So what does any of this have to do with anything, besides me bloviating here on my blog about random stuff? Only this: in many ways, it seems to me that submarine movies are a lot like the way we maneuver through our lives. The analogy that often leaps to mind is that we live life while facing backwards down the path, only able to see and analyze everything in retrospect. But I'm starting to think it's more like piloting a submarine. We may not be able to directly see what is in store for us, but we can use all of our senses, all of our past experiences, all of the knowledge we've managed to glean from others, and our own instinctual sonar to get a pretty decent idea of what surrounds us. We're never perfect, of course, and we may blunder and scrape bottom or be caught flat-footed by depth-charges we didn't expect and can't predict, but we do have some idea of how to keep moving ahead, carefully navigating the treacherous canyons and peaks that loom in the murky dark around us.


  1. Replies
    1. No lie, I was thinking about that while writing this. I almost included it.

  2. Good post, Jeff! Das Boot remains my top favorite, although not completely a sub movie, Ice Station Zebra comes close second.