The Abyss

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

35mm Print!

James Cameron followed two acclaimed hits, The Terminator and Aliens, with THE ABYSS. Set in an underwater research facility afflicted by uncanny events, the film was a chimera that fused elements from the submarine thriller, the survival picture, the visionary science fiction epic, and a Cassavetes-style domestic psychodrama about a marriage of true minds (Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) pushed to the breaking point during a crisis.

One of Cameron’s most technically innovative and personally controversial projects, The Abyss was was a critical and financial disappointment, despite an affecting love story, state-of-the-art miniatures, full-scale underwater action scenes, and pioneering computer-generated imagery. The spiraling budget and reports of miserable working conditions (Harris later claimed he almost died filming an underwater scene, and Cameron and his then-wife and coproducer Gale Anne Hurd split up at the end of production) made industry observers wonder if the director’s career could recover. Cameron’s next feature was Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and its stunning application of knowledge acquired in the briny deep made it one of the most popular films of all time. 

Discussion to follow with Blake Leyh, a sound designer and editor, music supervisor, and musician whose credits include The Abyss, Barton Fink, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Wire, Treme, and The Deuce, and joined by Ron Pogue, a 20-year movie industry veteran who spent several years coordinating the effects crews of Spider-Man 2 and James Cameron’s Avatar, and later produced visual effects for The Get Down and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Matt Zoller Seitz will be moderating.

Screening as part of our series Movies with MZS, an ongoing program of audience discussions hosted by critic Matt Zoller Seitz.

  • Country USA
  • Year 1989
  • Running Time 140 minutes
  • Distributor Fox
  • Director James Cameron
  • Writer James Cameron
  • Editor Conrad Buff IV, Joel Goodman, Howard Smith
  • Cast Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn, Leo Burmester
  • Accessibility Assistive Listening, T-Coil

IFC Center does not generally provide advisories about subject matter or potentially triggering content in films, as sensitivities vary from person to person. In addition to the synopses, trailers and other links on our website, further information about content and age-appropriateness for specific films can be found on Common Sense Media, IMDb and as well as through general internet searches.