DEAD SLOW AHEAD || 2015, Spain / France || Documentary || Directed by – Mauro Herce / Written by – Mauro Herce, Manuel Muñoz Rivas / Running time: 74 mins.
Anyone complaining about this film’s speed will not have paid enough attention to its title. In other words, Dead Slow Ahead is indeed dead slow. But it’s meant to be, for it is only in this way that the film will be able to achieve its true potential, and allow the viewer himself to play director and screenwriter by achieving a level of connection and active interaction that cannot usually be achieved in the traditionalist and passive cinema-going, film viewing experience.
This is also in many ways why Dead Slow Ahead is a quintessential directorial debut by a director of photography. Mauro Herce is a globetrotting cinematographer who has worked on such notable features as Stubborn (2015) and El Camino (2008).
For two years, he stayed aboard a freighter and filmed it, with great care and attention. The film therefore blends the line between realism and fiction. It is a documentary because it is filmed aboard a real freighter crossing the ocean. Yet, it is also fiction because it could be anything from a ferry to a spaceship, and it could be set in the present as much as it could be set in the future. (Some critics have accosted such genres as horror and science fiction to the word documentary in reviews of this film.)
Herce also achieves this considerably by understanding the relationship between object, camera and the eye controlling the camera. The relationship is sculptural, almost downright expressionistic, because it reinvents the realism of the cinema-photographic image into something else by closely observing movements of the machinery, the walls of the freighter and the occasional evidence of human life aboard.
Granted, the film will require a different type of attention from the viewer to be fully appreciated, this is a rare recent film that is both driven by patience and commitment that is ultimately rewarded in the creation of an atmosphere that is constantly able to be moulded and shaped according to the visions and thoughts it provokes and inspires in the spectator. – 4/5