Shane Carruth’s The Modern Ocean will be a big-budget seafaring adventure


Shane Carruth’s two films, Primer and Upstream Color, are great works of micro-budget indie filmmaking. Each one is its own idiosyncratic puzzlebox, with Primer tackling the repercussions of time travel and Upstream Color ruminating on control and the power of asserting personal narrative. (I was so obsessed with Upstream Color I wrote a three-part, 8,000 word essay on the film.)

The new and forthcoming Shane Carruth film, The Modern Ocean, will be bigger budget and larger in scale than his two previous movies. Carruth has signed with the agency WME for the new movie, and they will help him mount this nautical adventure.

In our 2013 interview with Shane Carruth, he teased The Modern Ocean like so: “It’s set against shipping routes all over the world. It’s basically, at its core, a truly tragic romance, but it’s in a world full of pirates and privateers, and ships at war at sea.”

Carruth elaborated on The Modern Ocean to IndieWire earlier this year:

There’s no genre or otherwordly elements in it, it’s set in the modern day on shipping routes, with people who build routes to trade — you know, vanilla from Madagascar and then pick up crude oil and drop it off in India. They build up this intellectual property of a route that is profitable and they sell it off to a bigger corporation…They’re building up the proof that this route will work, and selling it off, dealing with tidal systems and routes and currents and weather. So there are these competing companies and these inner personal things happening. It’s pirates, repo men, bolt cutters and sniper rifles, but at the same time it’s the same emotional language as Upstream Color, just magnified. I’m very excited by it…

We’re not tackling the Somalian pirates angle. When we deal with skirmishes, we know the motivation and it’s always within its set of characters. The skirmishes escalate into full-scale naval battles using these improvised weapons on these cargo ships and so it’s not trying to make a commentary about pirates. We are a world of ourselves, unto ourselves, in Modern Ocean.

If Carruth can somehow blend the beguiling emotion of Upstream Color with insane nautical survival, that will be one hell of a feat. I wonder whether or not Carruth can maintain his usual level of creative control on a larger film. Another concern is the film actually getting made. His ambitious follow-up to Primer titled A Topiary was ultimately abandoned despite having Steven Soderbergh and David Fincher attached as executive producers.

We’ll keep our eyes on The Modern Ocean as more develops. The film is currently in pre-production.

[Deadline via IndieWire]

Hubert Vigilla
Brooklyn-based fiction writer, film critic, and long-time editor and contributor for Flixist. A booster of all things passionate and idiosyncratic.