PRODUCTION THE DEEPEST BREATH
T he opening sequence of The Deepest Breath shows champion freediver Alessia Zecchini plunging vertically towards the bottom of the ocean; a slowing heartbeat echoing into the silence as she descends deeper into darkness. At the beginning of the continuous four- minute shot, we’re informed that each dive shown is undertaken on a single breath – and it’s near impossible not to hold your own breath alongside the Italian athlete as the seconds tick on, seemingly endlessly. Mesmerisingly beautiful and utterly panic-inducing to watch, this arresting scene sets the tone for The Deepest Breath , which follows Zecchini’s journey to the top of the sport, and her ill-fated relationship with coach and safety diver Stephen Keenan. As the dives get deeper and the stakes get higher, we’re given a window into the world of this deadly extreme sport and the obsessive ambition of those at its peak, pushing their bodies to the absolute limit. With present-day footage of both Zecchini and Keenan absent, and family members seeming to refer to both in the past tense, impending disaster is foreshadowed from the outset. A suffocating tension builds as the film works towards its denouement at the Blue Hole in Dahab, known as the most dangerous dive site in the world.
Nicola Foley speaks to the team behind The Deepest Breath: the smash-hit documentary that plunges viewers into the breathtaking world of freediving
For BAFTA-winning DOP Tim Cragg, it was an easy project to say yes to. “It’s a love story, and a human tragedy. It’s a clever film that’s got that epicness, escapism and awe. I was attracted to it because it was very different to the style I normally shoot. I mostly do fairly dark forms, and aesthetically I like sombreness. But on The Deepest Breath , director Laura McGann wanted something bright and hopeful, which transported people to these Bohemian beach pads,” he explains. “The travel attracted me, too; we shot in Italy, Egypt and the Bahamas. Because it was during the pandemic – corny as it sounds now – it felt like we were ambassadors showing people the world, because at that stage, it felt like we would never go to beaches again.” Since its launch at Sundance and subsequent release on Netflix, the film – a collab between A24, Motive Films, Ventureland and RAW – has enjoyed a rapturous reception. Racking up over ten
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