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The Cruel Sea

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Published on May 28, 2011

Absolutely merciless yachting PIF that may very well put you off the whole concept of the ocean forever. No idea when it was from, but I'd hazard the first half of the 80s.

I'd never seen this before, but I won't forget it. It dispassionately shows a horrible accident happening, with the sound modulated as if underwater; distant, echoing, suggestive of a nightmare. That's the only non-realistic touch though; otherwise, the accident and its consequences are depicted with absolute dead-eyed impassivity: the corpse washing gently ashore, buffeting against the breakers, and finally being dragged out onto the beach by ominous uniformed coastguards, shot at a slightly low angle, coming towards us. Then suddenly, abruptly, the picture freezes and the sound cuts off like death as the money shot arrives like a heave of the stomach, delivered by John Shrapnel, boiling a tragedy down to a single, blunt command. This is the quintessential Public Information Film. If it was a person, it would be Ray Winstone. It is that hard.

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