At the great heights of a ten-metre diving platform, diver Mary Holgate, plays a familiar role – one which figuratively we are all aware. Knowing you have come this far, your feet are hanging off the edge, there is no going back. Kate Lefoe’s remarkable six and a half minute short film, Somersault Pike, utilizes the dedicated, hard-working sports activity to demonstrate the build up of courage, and the journey from doubt.
We’ve all done it, taken a deep breath, and puffed out air as though about to embark on a great sporting achievement. Yet we might be just doing something as arbitrary as rolling a dice, being called in for a job interview, or even writing up a review. And in Somersault Pike, the preparation, and the momentum, and the motivation is shown in a slow-building way.
From the very opening title card, there’s an extremely crisp and clear sound. From the the water of a swimming pool a diver hits the water, but in such slow motion, we could analyse every moment, and movement of the diver’s body.
The cinematography, by Darrell Martin, is extraordinary. Slowing the speed of the lens down to encapsulate the motions, of both the water and the body hitting it. This gives the impression of much more rhythmic visuals, with the splash of the water, and the graceful bubbles, seemingly having a personality of their own.
As the diver strolls to her next dive, she watches others poolside. From just over her shoulder, the camera follows her, watching divers on different boards in sequence. And we stays with her part way up the steps, before we are lofted up to the sky, showing the magnitude of the height. And all in one perfect take.
Even the view from the top of the diving board is incredible, as she prepares for her dive. Feet back half over the edge of the board, then the camera is so close to her face, we can almost touch her nose. And so in this scope, the photography manages to cover great depth in field too, with the subject (the diver, or parts of her), against the background. Such grand scales offer a perspective of the task at hand.
Writer and director, Lefoe, also edited the short picture. And it is a skilled accomplishment at that. Overlapping real-time, with what might have been, or what might happen. Cutting back and forth between opposing contrasts, in one memorable transition, a long shot sees the tiny diver leap from the board, and cutting to right up close as she dips into the pool.
As mentioned from the outset, Somersault Pike has a very impressive sound design. Seemingly natural swimming pool sounds are amplified with a hum, which does cause a surprisingly alarming tension. Several shots are close to the diver, who is totally in the zone, and still the haunting sounds continue.
Somersault Pike is a ridiculously well-crafted short film, so simplistic in its multitudes of messages and interpretations, such fine detail is visually embellished. When the girl does eventually make the diver, and leaves the board backwards, she disappears out of the frame. Camera holds steady, and we can see the far end of the pool, but also a gorgeous wide shot of the city in the distance.
The aforementioned editing, cinematography, and sound are a superb trio here. And Kate Lefoe has complete control over her story, with the talent to project such a minimal tale onto a grand a scale as this. Somersault Pike will entice you, draw you in, whether you like the art of diving or not.
Kate Lefoe’s other film in competition, Plunge, is showcased on Day 8 of the Femme Filmmakers Festival, including a Podcast special with the director of Somersault Pike guesting.