Swedish filmmaker Joachim Hedén’s forthcoming film, “Breaking Surface,” follows half-sisters Ida (Moa Gammel Ginsburg) and Tuva (Madeleine Martin) through a winter scuba dive that quickly turns into more than they bargained for. The movie is an intense drama/thriller and Hedén’s fourth film, is set to be released on December 15. 

The film opens with dark scenes of the foreboding Norwegian coast, setting the tone of the film before we even meet Ida and Tuva. Their dive begins successfully, but toward the end, there’s a rockslide that traps Tuva underwater. When Ida reaches the surface to get help, she finds that the rockslide has also happened on land, cutting her off from their equipment, phones and car keys. With no option for outside rescue, it’s up to Ida to save Tuva on her own.

As the film progresses, the ferocity of the natural scenes in the film’s opening credits become even more apparent. The environment feels oppressively cold and dark, both for Tuva underwater and Ida on land. The scenery shown underscores the desperation of the story.

Swedish Filmmaker Joachim Hedén on Creating the Film

Breaking Surface is more than a rescue story. It exposes Ida and Tuva’s fragmented relationship and follows the sisters through desperation and determination. Despite their rocky relationship—both the day of the dive and in the past—Ida is resolved to saving Tuva, and, when the tables turn, Tuva shows up for Ida with the same ferocity.

Hedén made an interesting choice in writing a story with two female leads, but it’s one that came with specific intention.

“It just came to me as two sisters…somebody who [sic] actually did suggest ‘could it perhaps maybe be two brothers instead of two sisters?’ and, when that question came up in that meeting, I remember feeling very protective of the idea that it should be two sisters,” Hedén said.

There are few other characters in the story, and the ones that exist get very little screen time. The focus is completely on Ida and Tuva for almost the entirety of the film. This was another conscious decision on Hedén’s part.

“I really wanted to make a film about these two people, these two characters…this was absolutely, 100 percent a conscious decision to make this film purely from [Ida’s] point of view,” Hedén said.

Ida and Tuva being the only two real characters changes the way the film is viewed and interpreted. With the focus almost exclusively on them, we get the opportunity to really look into their relationship and their dynamic and the way that changes under pressure (or, in this case, underwater).

The central focus on these two characters also changed the directing process for Hedén.

“It makes the process easier if you have fewer characters,” Hedén said.

Filming Underwater

Another unique aspect of Breaking Surface is that much of the action takes place underwater. The film follows the sisters through the successful beginning of their dive, and, once Tuva gets stuck, the camera follows Ida’s journey back and forth between being in the ocean with Tuva and on land by herself, trying to figure out how to help Tuva.

The aspect of being underwater increased the intensity of the film as well as the directing process for Hedén.

“There is a physical separation between you and the actors and the camera operator. On a regular set, you can just walk over to the actors and have a conversation or talk to the camera operator. Here, all of this happens remote,” Hedén said.

Overall, Hedén’s Breaking Surface prospers as what it is: a female-led, well-casted thriller. It has the classic trouble of drama with an underwater twist, and the complicated sibling relationship—a common and sometimes overdone trope—is successfully intensified by the conditions.