A competitive diver readies herself in a locker room, wrapping up her hair. Her motions look quiet and deliberate on the outside, but instead she is full of apprehension at the dive she is about to attempt.
Yet as she approaches the pool and the diving board, she musters enough focus and concentration to picture her perfect dive. And then, she takes one more breath… and jumps.
Writer-director Kate Lefoe’s short drama is a visually stunning meditation on what it means to face your obstacles time and time again in order to reach a goal or achieve a feat. The combination of gorgeously vivid cinematography with richly evocative slow-motion camerawork is hypnotic in its own right, but when harnessed to chart the emotional arc of the diver, it becomes outright poetic and immersive.
Through its engagement of the senses — and its excellent editing and sound design — the audience has a sense of what it means to stand on a diving board, summon the stillness right before a dive and reckon with all the emotions that enter into that silence before letting go. Though dives happen in a flash, the film slows down motion and time, creating a sensuous appreciation of just what a mental and physical fear diving is and just how intense the emotional and mental preparation for it can be.
The visuals and sound are wrapped around the narrative of the diver, and though it’s an internal one — and almost completely dialogue-free — its intimacy also works beautifully within the considerable aesthetics of the film. The slow motion relays the sense of almost sludge-like apprehension, but also the way time seems to slow down as the diver focuses and visualizes her dive before executing it.
“Somersault Pike” takes advantage of cinema’s ability to portray the elasticity of time as we experience it — how one tiny moment can contain a universe, or a large expanse of it can flash by in a blur. And in its visually striking and contemplative way, it’s also inspiring in showing how we can harness our imaginations to slow the world down, winnow in on what matters — and then go after it with renewed vigor and focus.