Last friday Josie Fraser checked out the Voight-Kampff and Esper Machines from Blade Runner, for this week's Movie Gadget Friday she writes about the Fluid Breathing System from The Abyss:
We've looked at some great films recently, but this week's gadget comes from a real stinker of a movie—it's the
Fluid Breathing System from James Cameron's 1989 sentimental underwater alien action fest, The Abyss. I have
(what I regard as) a perfectly reasonable loathing of underwater movies - they are obviously only made by sadists or
lunatics, and watching them reminds me of the early stages of motherhood. Cameron apparently falls into the former
category of film makers; the inclusion of the Fluid Breathing System was inspired by high-school aged Cameron
witnessing a science gimp almost drown in an experiment showing how liquid breathing might be possible (although not
necessarily survivable). Poor old Ed Harris's
near-drowning between takes was dismissively referred to by the director as being "very uncomfortable," and the actors
working on the film subsequently nicknamed it 'The Abuse', The plot lurches from one apocalyptic crises to another with
a couple of heart-warming near deaths thrown in for good measure.
The Fluid Breathing System is brought along to the party by some Navy Seals, who join the crew of an undersea drilling rig in order to retrieve a nuclear sub, which has sunk to settle on the precipice of an abyss. The water pressure experienced by divers at depth make it tricky to stay down for too long without running the risk of developing decompression sickness and turning into a human SodaStream. The breathing liquid solution works on the principle that this won't happen if you take away the pressure in the blood and lungs by using a non-compressible fluid (oxygenated fluorocarbon emulsion in the film), rather than a gas. Fluid Breathing theories and experiments have been around since the mid 1960's, and Cameron happily uses this film to commemorate a long and proud history of rodent abuse.