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The young man and the Radiant Sea


- In an intimate and documentary-like style, German filmmaker Stefan Butzmühlen follows a young man who is looking to find himself on board a cargo ship headed for the island he yearns for

The young man and the Radiant Sea
Martin Sznur in Radiant Sea

Stories about journeys always (or almost always) work on two levels: movement from one point to another is not only effected across the surface of the Earth, but is accompanied by a similar movement – in this case, one under the surface of the skin. In Radiant Sea [+see also:
film profile
, young German director Stefan Butzmühlen portrays one of those journeys, across the sea, an element in constant motion that serves as a perfect accompaniment to that personal movement. The movie, which was presented as a world premiere at the Crossing Europe Festival in Linz, follows a young man on that voyage.

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The German character Marek (Martin Sznur) is fleeing from his parents' cold farm in Western Pomerania to move to more radiant climes: the rays of the sun first lead him to Dunkirk and then to Saint-Nazaire, where he boards a cargo ship together with a Frenchman, Jean (Jules Léo Sagot). Marek discovers a new horizon in Jean's skin: one in which love and passion flood into the existential void that he is seeking to fill. The intimate and sexual encounters on the open sea plunge the two characters into an odyssey, at the end of which they will find the island they yearn for, together… or perhaps not. The two seafarers tread on solid ground once again when the ship arrives on the island of Martinique. However, even though they both now find themselves in the same outer place, they each attempt to keep themselves afloat in their own inner space.

It is that innermost nature of space that Radiant Sea emphasises in its mise-en-scène, making use of the natural locations of the Atlantic and the Caribbean island as it promotes them from the role of being mere scenery. Butzmühlen builds the film up on two parallel levels. The first is the portrait of the intimacy that exists between Marek and Jean, sketched out through the obvious glances and the vigorous sex scenes between them. And the second is the documentary-like gaze at the world that surrounds them: the hierarchy of the workers on the cargo ship is presented down to the finest detail, the work taking place on the freighter is captured in long sequences, with Madama Butterfly serving as the soundtrack, and the natural surroundings of Martinique leave us with captivating images, such as a nighttime stroll dotted with countless fireflies. The voiceover (by Marek) becomes another of the film's tools, as it narrates the interactions between the two men while they stay silent, contributing to that documentary-like feel. And although Radiant Sea could be more forceful in its mise-en-scène as well as in its story, Butzmühlen manages to depict an interesting voyage brimming with unaffected honesty.

The movie was produced by German outfit Salzgeber & Co, which was already behind Butzmühlen's last title, Sleepless Knights, shot in Spain and co-directed with his now editor Cristina Diz. The subsidiary of the production company itself is handling the international sales.

(Translated from Spanish)

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