Diving into the Unknown tells the story of four Finnish divers, who risk their lives to bring the bodies of their lost friends home. The Finnish cave divers’ worst nightmare becomes a reality, when two of the group members drown deep inside an underwater cave in Norway. After the official retrieval operation is called off by Norwegian and British authorities, the friends set off on a secret mission to try to retrieve the bodies themselves. Diving into the Unknown is more than just the extreme story of a secret operation. It is also a profound story of the groups’ unconditional friendship. With multiple cameras, this film follows the breathtaking recovery mission as the team risks their own lives to bring their friends back home.
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A group of five Finnish cave divers set off on an extremely dangerous mission: to dive through a five-kilometer-long and 130-meter-deep cave in Plurdalen, in northern Norway.
Halfway through the dive things go terribly wrong. Two of the divers drown and three miraculously survive.
A British/ Norwegian team is set up to recover the bodies, however it was aborted due to dangerous conditions. The entrance to the cave was sealed off.
Patte, Vesku and Kai, the survivors of the accident, decide to call their friend Sami, a cave diving instructor and together plan their own recovery mission. But this time it was all done in secret.
Diving into the Unknown is more than just a rare insight into a very dangerous hobby and a secret mission; it is also the in-depth story of the groups’ unconditional friendship and their attempt to come to terms with the death of their two friends.
However, the physical burden is nothing comparing the psychological burden to come facto-face with your friends’ dead bodies while you’re trying to complete an extremely dangerous mission in an extremely hostile environment.
The story starts with the main characters relating the setting up of the fatal dive with archive footage of the dive and the accident. Voiceovers of the main characters describe the events of the accident and their profound feelings about living through these horrible moments.
When the official body retrieval operation is called off, the main characters start making their own plans to reclaim the bodies of their friends, but this time in secret. As they plan, we learn more about the main characters: Patte is a fireman, burdened by the extreme guilt about not having been able to rescue his best friend, Huotarinen. Kai is a 53-year-old electrician. He wasn’t able to help his friend Uusimäki, who died right before his eyes. Vesku is a 33-year-old rescue diver who was badly injured during the accident and who hasn’t been able to dive since. Sami is the cave diving instructor who is the leader of the team and it was he who taught the victims how to cave dive.
Over the course of the secret operation, Diving into the Unknown shows the physical and psychological struggles the team endures while also faced with the constant fear of getting caught. If the police knew what they were up to, the operation would be halted immediately.
Filmed with multiple cameras, the film follows this operation both on the surface and under water.The emotional burden is too much for Kai, who is unable to continue. Laura, a female diver, replacing Kai also has to abort the mission. A huge rock falls on Sami while he was trying to maneuver one of the victims out of a narrow tunnel, almost causing the entire tunnel to collapse. The very next day, his wetsuit was torn and he only avoided hypothermia because he was close enough to the surface. Despite all the challenges the team face they ultimately manage to retrieve Huotarinen’s body.
Encouraged by the success of the first part of the mission, the team will face even bigger challenges as they push on. Uusimäki’s body is so bloated with gas that moving it requires a huge effort. There is also tension in the small group and they narrowly escape falling victim to decompression sickness.
Patte, Kai, Vesku and Sami ultimately overcome both the physical and emotional challenges and successfully complete their mission. They place the bodies of their dear friends in body bags and hold a moment of silence in their memory in the dry section of the cave.
The following day they call the Norwegian police to tell them what they’ve done and hurry back home to Finland before being arrested. At home, they are national heroes.
But the psychological challenges are far from over. Kai has to face his fear of diving, Vesku has to be examined by a doctor to see if he will ever be able to dive again, and both Patte and Sami wrestle with the question of whether they should continue exploring caves or not. In the end Kai manages to overcome his fears of diving and Vesku gets a doctor’s clearance to continue diving.
And even after everything they’ve been through, they decide to continue exploring caves.
The project started in May 2010 when cave divers Janne Suhonen and Antti Apunen approached us with their book called “Divers of the Dark”. The book is about an exploration of a huge underwater cave system under the city of Budapest it also gives you general information about cave diving. The book mesmerized me and I was eager to find out more about the subject matter.
“I realized that cave divers are, among astronauts, the last true explorers in the world and entering deep inside these caves depends totally on their effort as no GPS or any other device can reach there.”
Cave diving is one of the most dangerous jobs/hobbies in the world, physical as much as mental precautions play major part of the preparations. The more I looked into the subject the more certain I was about it being a powerful story.
I have never really been keen on diving but what really interest me is the psychological side of it: how far ambition can drive people, how much they are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their goals and what is the common factor between the ones risking their lives for these ambitions. I believe cave diving represents all that therefore it became my driving force for the story.
Through Janne and Antti we found a group who were preparing themselves to break a world record dive, which became the red line of the story. While this group was preparing themselves to the dive a terrible accident happened deep inside an underwater cave in Norway: two divers were drowned and three of them survived miraculously. The accident devastated everybody and our film project was put aside. When the official body retrieve operation was aborted the three survivors decided to organize their own one and we had the opportunity to join them. This obviously changed the whole storyline but yet, it still remained the same thematic approach as before. The operation was to be an extraordinarily unique one but yet very important to be captured in the most respectful way.
“The accident devastated everybody and our film project was put aside.”
I strongly believe that the story has all the powerful ingredients to touch people across cultural or geographical boundaries. At heart it is a very candid story about the groups’ unique friendships overcoming adversity, and going through something all of us can identify with. Bringing your friends back home at all costs is heroic, however the story is more complex than that: ultimately it asks, is it all worth dying for?
MORE ABOUT DIRECTOR – Juan Reina
Juan Reina is a director/scriptwriter who graduated from the University of Wales, Newport in 2005 and has worked in various different projects in Africa, Middle East and Europe. His films have achieved awards and nominations in different festivals around the world like IDFA Amsterdam, Sheffield, Buenos Aires, Tampere, Qatar and Cairo. Juan has directed films and series for National Geographic, Channel 4, YLE, MTV 3 Finland among others. Juan’s work consists of films like Iseta- Behind the Roadblock (2008), Albino United (2010), 6954 Kilometres to Home (2013) and a six episode documentary series for YLE called Operation Mannerheim (2012). Diving into the Unknown (2016) is his first feature length documentary film.
FESTIVALS & AWARDS
2016 DocPoint Documentary Festival, Finland
2016 Docs Against Gravity Film Festival, Poland
2016 Edinburgh International Film Festival, Scotland
2016 Tampere Film Festival, Finland
2016 Visions du Reel, Switzerland
2016 Dokfilm Festival, Europe
2016 DOK.fest, Germany
2016 Doc Edge Film Festival, New Zealand
2016 Hot Docs Documentary Festival, Canada
PRESS & REVIEWS
“A profound film about plumbing depths both physical and spiritual, Diving Into The Unknown is a unique and compelling work.”
Jason Gorber, POV MAGAZINE
“A visceral survival against the odds documentary.”
David Larsen, METRO MAGAZINE