The Deep Dark

The Deep Dark (Gueules noires) poster

An immigrant relocated to the north of France, Amir dons his helmet and lamp and descends into the coal mines with his team, Santini, Polo, explosives expert Miguel, and their leader Roland, a man experienced and aware of the dangers and familiar with the dark labyrinth who tolerates no horseplay on his watch, but this expedition is something different, the foreman having been paid a substantial bonus for them to accompany and assist Professor Berthier.

The lowest levels of the mine insufficient for his experiment, the depth required is a full kilometre, a charge splitting the floor to reveal a hollow below into which they descend by rope, finding a second labyrinth cut into the sandstone with runes carved into the walls; exploring further, desiccated corpses are found, as is a tomb in which lies a vast sarcophagus, some of the men hopeful the burial chamber will conceal treasure but Berthier more interested in the answers to a decade-long quest for knowledge.

The Deep Dark (Gueules noires); the minehead, towering above the landscape and digging deep below into the rock.

The minehead a monument of modernity over the landscape from which commences a descent into hell accompanied by the swing of pickaxes and the grunting of the sweaty men, The Deep Dark (Gueules noires, literally Black Faces, a colloquialism for miners) is written and directed by Mathieu Turi, starring Brotherhood of the Wolf’s Samuel Le Bihan as the even handed Roland, Nikita‘s Jean-Hugues Anglade as the dedicated but duplicitous Berthier and Amir El Kacem as the innocent Amir, trapped in dusty darkness as a cave-in blocks their exit, forcing the men deeper in hopes of finding another route to the surface.

Led by an almost exclusively male cast appropriate for such work in 1955, The Deep Dark is almost a counterpoint to The Descent, but where those women potholers carried with them a tangled personal history of resentments along with their equipment here the men are little beyond their tasks or nationalities, the Moroccan, the Spaniard, the Italian, their behaviours and flaws predictable as their hopes dwindle, with Berthier the wild card whose irresponsible actions place them all in danger.

The Deep Dark (Gueules noires); the trapped miners are not the first to face their doom in the dark.

That Berthier withheld information about the true purpose of the expedition is necessary to set up the situation, but once the sarcophagus is open and the immortal demigod within has awoken, the “eater of souls” hunting the men in the dark one-by one, his continuing self-serving obsession stretches credulity, demanding dispensation to examine artifacts and taking notes when the screams of the dying should indicate to even the most obstinate academic that escape should take priority.

With references to the “mad Arab” Abdul Alhazred which add as little as the historic prelude covering a previous encounter in the mine known as “the Devil’s Island,” the physical creation of the labyrinth and in particular the throne room is impressive though the widescreen format does not lend itself to crushing claustrophobia, and while the design of the monstrous multi-limbed Mok’Noroth (Eight for Silver‘s Carl Laforêt) is imaginative it would have been better had it remained in the shadows rather than been fully illuminated, however briefly, the deep dark the best place to maintain the illusion of horror.

The Glasgow Film Festival concluded on Sunday 10th March

The Deep Dark (Gueules noires); Amir (Amir El Kacem) comes face to face with the Mok’Noroth (Carl Laforêt).



Show Buttons
Hide Buttons