The terrible tragedy that inspired the ‘Belly of the Sea’ and hits theaters this Friday

Agustí de Villaronga’s film won six awards at the Malaga Film Festival, and is selected for the European Film Awards, and is inspired by an atrocious shipwreck in the 19th century.

It happened in July 1816. The frigate Alliance, of the French Navy, also called La Medusa, ran aground off the coast of Mauritania with 400 people on board. But tragedy befell them due to the captain’s negligence and cowardice. The lifeboats only fit 250 sailors who were chosen, secretly by the captain and his officers: they included sailors, passengers, women, children and officers. But 147 people, the most humble and courageous, were betrayed by their captain and left adrift at sea on a precarious raft.

Hunger, madness, dehydration, and cruelty did the rest. Two weeks later when they were found, only 9 people had survived. The history of these forgotten in the middle of the sea is the one that portrays The Belly of the Sea. Agustí Villaronga’s film hits theaters this weekend preceded by its success at the Malaga Film Festival – six awards – and as a representative of the European Film Awards. This is the atrocious story that inspired and so masterfully portrays the Mallorcan director.

When the story of the Medusa or Alliance came to light it was a source of shame and humiliation for the supposedly enlightened France of the time. They were traveling to Senegal, where a diplomatic mission was taking the new governor and his family to take over the colony. But they were captained by an aristocrat, named Hugues Du Roy de Chaumereys, who was rewarded for his services to the regime, but who “enjoyed the salons and officer balls in exile in England more than navigating the seas of the world” according to Javier Noriega explains in the Espejo de Navegantes blog. Due to its inexperience and stubbornness, the ship ran aground one sunny day, with the sea calm, on a perfectly marked sandbank on the navigation charts.

When the captain ordered to abandon ship, there were more crew than there were places available in the rescue boats.

So it was decided that those who could not fit would climb onto a raft made from the masts and ship wreckage that the lifeboats would tow ashore. They called it La Machine and it measured 15 by 8 meters. In her huddled the 147 remaining crew members they were sailors, soldiers and a cook. His only provisions: five barrels of wine and two of water.


Mirror of Navigators Blog.

The raft built with wood from the wrecked ship where the 147 crew members left over from the lifeboats got on.

But the sea worsened and the advance of the boats with the ballast of the raft was too slow. So, to the astonishment of those who traveled in the raft, from the boats that towed them they cut the ropes and left them in the middle of the sea. One of the survivors later recounted and published what happened. Henri Savigny’s testimony was clear: “We couldn’t believe that they had abandoned us until we stopped seeing the boats in the distance, and then we fell into deep despair.” On the first day two of them jumped into the sea in anticipation of the tragedy.

One of the scenes from The Belly of the Sea.

They had to face hunger, storms, madness and the worst of the human being in an extreme situation in which only survival matters. A fierce fight breaks out on that drifting raft. A horror that lasted 13 days until a boat rescued them.

Only nine managed to save their lives. The raft was full of dead and dying people who, to get there, had eaten even the leather of their belts, the sheaths of their weapons, their hats and even their dead companions and drunk their own urine. The fight for survival, according to Sauvigny’s chronicle, was with machetes. And they even threw the weakest into the sea.

Among the survivors, who are portrayed in the film, were Savigny (Roger Casamajor), who provides much of the film’s voiceover, a relentless medical officer and Thomas (Óscar Kapoya), a rebel private sailor. Confronted, they live these events showing different attitudes to survive. A conflict that evokes the wound of man, where the worst of cruelties and the sweetest of pieties are shown. The film tells this story based on the novel by Alessandro Baricco Ocean sea, which concentrates the story of this shipwreck in a chapter entitled The Belly of the sea.


Louvre Museum, Paris, France

The story of this shipwreck was immortalized by Théodore Géricault on the famous canvas The raft of the Medusa, preserved in the Louvre Museum, which generated fright in the French society of the time. And now the Mallorcan filmmaker Agustí Villaronga is in charge of taking it to the big screen in a transgressive version of this story that follows brave and relentless paths.

The horror, cruelty and madness of a shipwreck in the trailer for ‘The Belly of the Sea’ that we offer you in PRIMICIA

The film, the tenth feature film by Mallorcan director Agustí Villaronga, was originally conceived to be a play, but the pandemic forced a change in plans: “The idea of ​​making a film halfway between cinema and theater arose, through Baricco’s text, as a way of reinventing ourselves in the face of difficulty ”, the filmmaker explains in the production notes. And the artist uses this terrible story to also talk about the humanitarian crisis that has been going on for years in the Mediterranean: images of the project “In the Same Boat”, by Italian Francesco Zizola, who filmed the shipwreck of migrants in the Mediterranean of the ship Bourbon Argos, in a multi-award-winning work, appear in “The Belly of the Sea”. But the viewer will also discover parallels with other confrontations, such as racial tensions or class struggle. In the cast, different sub-Saharan characters make up a kind of chorus of a Greek tragedy.

Villaronga’s films have been awarded at festivals in Berlin, Cannes, Montreal, San Sebastián, Tokyo … Two of his films have been selected to participate in the category of best foreign language film at the Hollywood Oscars: Black bread (2010, Spain) and Aro Tolbukhin: in the mind of the assassin (2002, Mexico).

Malaga Festival: ‘The Belly of the Sea’ by Agustí Villaronga triumphs in the Award Winners of the Official Section

A whole trip makes madness, cruelty, and the best and worst of the human being in a film that is based on real events and will hit theaters on November 12.