Around 71% of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, but despite decades of sea exploration there’s still a lot to be discovered about life below the waves, providing the perfect platform for filmmakers who want to take to the water and get their audience scratching their heads.
This Maltese thriller is a family affair, directed by father Winston Azzopardi, starring son Joe Azzopardi, and written by the pair together. Set off the shores of picturesque Malta, an unnamed sailor sets off in his boat to go fishing before encountering what looks to be an abandoned yacht in thick fog.
With echoes of both Final Destination and John Carpenter’s Christine, the sailor suffers misfortune after misfortune after boarding the yacht. As his confusion and unease grows, the same feelings arise in the audience, as you feel equally unsure as to what is the driving force behind what the sailor is experiencing.
At the Maltese premiere Winston Azzopardi was reported to have said: “There are three characters in this film: the sailor, the boat and the sound.”
Joe Azzopardi delivers a convincing performance of an able sailor who clearly knows his way around a boat but who is losing control of his surroundings and what is happening to him. Indeed, he has perhaps just a minute or two of dialogue throughout the whole film, conveying emotion mostly through facial expression alone.
The orchestral soundtrack, written by Lachlan Anderson, perfectly complements the action, adding personality to the boat itself, the ominous crescendos delivering a sense of foreboding.
Warning: Spoilers after image
As the film reaches its conclusion it is very much your choice, as the audience, to decipher its meaning. Is the sailor in purgatory? Was the boat being controlled by someone on the shore? Whose belongings were on the boat?
Watching a Q&A with Joe Azzopardi gave some clues, including why the pod of dolphins make an appearance, but the message is very much “you decide”. It certainly is left open-ended but my view is that the sailor is in some sort of purgatory, doomed to live the same day over and over.
I think that elements may change, for example he might try to peacefully live on the boat, but supernatural forces will always find a way of inciting danger.
The Boat (2018)
Director: Winston Azzopardi
Starring: Joe Azzopardi
“A lone fisherman encounters a seemingly abandoned yacht in an eerie fog bank. Whilst trying to do the right thing the most inexplicable and terrifying nightmare begins.” – IMDb