Film shows sailor and refugee crisis at sea

Styx
The film Styx dramatizes a single-handed sailor in a moral dilemma.

Few movies represent offshore sailing in realistic terms. One of the attempts to do so is 2013’s All Is Lost, which starred Robert Redford as a singlehander whose boat hits a container, forcing him into a survival situation. Now we can add another realistic offshore sailing movie to the list. The recently released German-Austrian film Styx similarly shows a singlehander who comes across an unusual situation at sea and must deal with it the best she can.

Styx, which stars Susanne Wolff and is in German and English dialogue, shows us Wolff departing Gibraltar for Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, a destination she anticipates by looking through a picture book that depicts its lush natural wonders. Directed by Wolfgang Fischer, the film presents Wolff’s character — who is a doctor in Cologne — as a good sailor who can handle her Grand Soleil 40 sloop well even in storm conditions.

 Then she comes across the situation in which her knowledge and experience don’t help her. She sees a boat overloaded with refugees and must decide what to do. The film explores the responsibility of a mariner to assist those in distress on the sea. At the same time, it presents a moral question: What do we owe each other as fellow humans? Wolff and her boat symbolically stand in for all of Europe and the developed world as it wrestles with how to deal with the issue of immigration from developing countries.

Ultimately, Wolff’s character makes her decision and has to live with the consequences. Styx may be a little too earnest at times, and its story might not be quite enough to fill out its running time, but it does feature realistic sailing and succeeds in making the viewer think about how they would respond to a similar dilemma offshore.