“This is a very personal story to me. When I started this project I met a group of people, who wanted to be part of something positive with someone they admired at the helm. But then the unbearable happened. When you are suddenly pulled into such a nightmare it changes your life forever. The film is a testimony of the people who were close to Madsen as they slowly grasp the true nature of the man and the terrible crimes he committed.” – Emma Sullivan, Director, Into The Deep
In the summer of 2016, Emma Sullivan, an Australian filmmaker, began documenting the life and work of Danish inventor Peter Madsen. Madsen was famous in Denmark for building a home-made, crowd-funded Submarine and he was now attempting to become the world’s first amateur astronaut by constructing his own space rocket. An apparently charismatic and playful man, Madsen attracted engineering and science students to his workshop in Copenhagen, who were captivated by his energy and wild ambitions.
A year into her project, Sullivan filmed Madsen on August 10th 2017 as he prepared to take a Swedish journalist, Kim Wall, on a trip in his submarine. On that voyage, Madsen brutally murdered the journalist and disposed of her remains overboard. Notwithstanding its savagery, this was a carefully planned, premeditated crime and some of Madsen’s preparations had been unwittingly recorded by Sullivan’s camera.
Using a year’s worth of observational footage, her film provides an unprecedented portrait of an apparently charming eccentric who turns into a murderer before our very eyes. More poignantly, she shows us the innocent enthusiasm of the amateur space mission and then tracks the impact of the crime on Madsen’s supporters as they slowly grasp the true nature of the man they called a friend and mentor.
Denial and disbelief turn to shock and disgust as they question the trust they placed in Madsen, reinterpret seemingly innocuous events they witnessed and reckon with their own feelings of shame and complicity in the terrible events onboard the submarine that summer night in Copenhagen. For them, it is a bitter journey from innocence to experience as they prepare to face Madsen in court and provide the damning testimony that secures his conviction.
As Into The Deep reveals, some of the rushes would become crucial for the prosecution in the eventual trial of Madsen in March 2018. He was ultimately found guilty, and handed a sentence of life imprisonment.
A work-in-progress version of Into The Deep premiered at Sundance film festival in 2020. Following that screening, two participants were removed from the film and another participant “Sara” appears in the film digitally disguised at her request. The filmmakers used cutting edge technology which provides a lifelike disguise but offers a more authentic viewing experience to the audience than a blur.
Into The Deep will launch on Netflix globally on 30 September 2022.