Why on earth has humankind set the stage for its own extinction? Why bring a child into a world threatened by the horror of nuclear war and massive environmental destruction? These are the answers sought by Beatrice (Anne Louise Lambert) after the birth of her daughter Maeve (Maeve Dermody, the director's daughter) in this challenging, stylistically brazen feature film debut by author, critic and academic Susan Murphy Dermody.
With the mysterious guide Herman (Kristoffer Greaves) and a map borrowed from Dante, Beatrice enters an imaginary underground, an inverted city, to negotiate her way through a terrain of dreams, memories and strange images washed up from the past. Their quest begins at a Sydney bus stop (why not?) and ends on an Australian beach (where else?). Along the way, the viewer is transported, via re-processed archival footage, animation (by Lee Whitmore) and dramatic sequences, to a world of childhood memories of wonder, fear and imagination.
"Breathing Under Water is passionate filmmaking. In the form of an argument, an imaginative intellectual essay, it attacks the 'curse' of needing to know which has come to father the unthinkable science which has expelled a vehicle careening toward destruction...Breathing Under Wafer is a bold synthesis of imagination and intellectualization, of images of beauty, of horror and fear which are bound to the words (too obscure, I think, sometimes) of a fiercely passionate argument. See it and stay unmoved!"