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This is an intriguing, evocative and multilayered film superbly acted
and wonderfully filmed (mostly in single takes, it seems). It is also
rather slow and meandering, and problematic. The basic plot could be
set almost anywhere failure of personal relationships in the context
of a failure of civic duty, but Ray Lawrence has chosen to adapt
Raymond Carver's short story of the fishermen who took their time over
reporting finding a woman's body to a highly specific place, Jindabyne,
NSW, and to include the vexed question of black/white relationships in
As is pointed out in one of those awful cheery 1960s documentary being shown to the kids in the local primary school, the present day Jindabyne is a "second chance" sort of place, the old town having disappeared under the waters of Lake Jindabyne during the creation of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme, though at very low water levels the old church steeple is said to poke out of the water. Unfortunately, as we are shown in the opening sequence there is still evil in the new town in the shape of the local electrician (Chris Heywood, very nasty), who likes to hunt and kill young women. It is his victim's body the four fishing buddies, Stewart, Carl, Rocco and Billy, find in the stream, tie to a log, fish for a day, and then the next morning decide to raise the alarm.
When it becomes public that the four delayed reporting their find to go fishing (why didn't they lie about when they found the body?) there is a predictable uproar. The dead woman was aboriginal and the local aboriginals are particularly upset since they see this as symptomatic of whitey attitudes). Rocco's aboriginal girlfriend is not impressed. But the greatest emotional impact falls on Stewart (an Irishman) and his American wife Claire whose relationship is already rocky.
At one point I thought Claire was going to crack the case, but instead we get a literally hazy scene where some kind of reconciliation between black and white is attempted. After seeing the superb "Ten Canoes" recently I found the whole aboriginal storyline contrived. What I did think was very powerful and affecting was the portrayal of a damaged marriage. Gabriel Byrne does not put a foot wrong as Stewart, an ordinary bloke resigned to what little emotional comfort he can get from his family, and Laura Linney gives great depth to her role as his wife Claire, a woman for whom motherhood is a daunting task.
The rest of the cast are fine. Debra-Lee Furness as Carl's wife Jude makes a dislikeable character understandable, John Howard as Carl puts in a solid performance and there are two good performances from child actors Eva Lazzaro as Jude's disturbed granddaughter, and Sean Rees-Wemyss as Stewart and Claire's son Tom.
Ray Lawrence clearly did not set out to create a crime story but he certainly shows that crime can have some unexpected collateral damage. He also has contributed to the "Cinema of Unease", a phrase Sam Neill once used to describe New Zealand cinema, by setting a story about personal and public guilt in such a glorious setting.
There are similarities between Ray Lawrence's "Jindabyne" and his last
movie "Lantana" a dead body and its repercussions for already
dysfunctional lives. But whereas "Lantana" offered some hope and
resolution, "Jindabyne" leaves everything unresolved in a bleak way
that will leave most viewers unsatisfied, perhaps even cheated.
The storyline - the aftermath of a fisherman's discovery of a corpse floating in a remote river - is based on a short story by Raymond Carver. It became an element in Robert Altman's classic 1993 ensemble "Short Cuts". Lawrence uses this theme for an exploration and exposition of relationships within a small Australian community under stress. The movie poses some moral questions "Would you let the discovery of a dead body ruin your good weekend?" and more poignantly for Australians "Would it make any difference if the dead person was an aboriginal?" The acting, especially by Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney, is commendable. And there are elements of mysticism reinforced by haunting music, not unlike "Picnic at Hanging Rock".
If all this sounds like the basis for a great movie - be prepared for a let down, the pace is very slow and the murder is shown near the beginning, thereby eliminating the element of mystery. And so we are left with these desolate lives and a blank finale.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Maybe I missed the message entirely, but I was disappointed. OK, the
film relies heavily on mood and emotion rather than action, as many
Aussie films seem to do. I can see that it can be taken as an allegory
for the white man's invasion of the aboriginal's world - the rape and
murder of black by white is followed by callous disregard by white men
who come after - but is this really the message? Stewart's reaction
when he finds the body is hardly uncaring, it's more like hysterical.
And did the killer deliberately choose the aboriginal girl for his
victim? The way he lay in wait behind the rocks makes it look random.
What is the significance of Caylin-Calandria's absurd name? Why does
she kill the guinea-pig? Is this supposed to show her as 'evil'? after
all, she appears to have evil intent when Tom almost drowns. Is there
any significance in the guinea-pig being black? There are a number of
scenes that -to me, at least - add nothing to the movie, and only
confuse the story. Why is the killer shown uncovering the victim's car
in his shed, and pulling off the P plate? The car being there obviously
puts him at risk of being caught, but nothing comes of it. Why does the
killer try to force Claire off the road in the same way he did to his
victim - reminiscent of the Peter Falconio killer - is this meant to
throw suspicion on him in Claire's mind? Nothing comes of it. When
Claire shows up at the aboriginal's spirit-smoking ceremony, some
mourners resent her intrusion and threaten her - yet the killer is
there too, watching from the sidelines, but no-one questions or objects
to his presence.
One thing that did amuse me is the apparent nod the director gives to the movie 'Duel' in the way the FJ45 Landcruiser appears to menace its 'victims' - the close-up view in the mirror, the revving overtaking maneuver, the heavy diesel idling when it's lying in wait, all look familiar. And, like the truck in Duel, it stops and waits up ahead after it has given Claire a scare. Sure, we see the driver in this one, unlike Duel, but I thought there was a parallel.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is terrible. I was really looking forward to it, as I thought
"Lantana" was great.
The following review may contain *spoilers*
First, the good things: it looks great, some of the performances are OK. The bad things are everything else about it.
The story, as you possibly know, is about some blokes who go fishing and discover a body, with the twist that they find it on Friday but continue fishing and finally report it on Sunday when they get back into mobile (cell phone) range. However the film takes it's time (boy does it take its time) getting to this central event.
Of the ensemble of characters (about a dozen), not one seems to like another one (which is, I suppose, consistent, because they are all unlikable). I was extremely frustrated by the failure to adequately explain how the characters are related, and it was not until near the end of the movie that I could vaguely construct the family tree.
It's hard to think of a film us unrelentingly grim, which is a failure in the structure of the story, as the character's lives seem just as bad before the fishing trip as after. Once you've set the bar so high, it's hard to up-it short of everyone committing suicide.
There are silly lapses in logic. The killer dumps the body in the lake, and then it somehow drifts miles upstream into the mountains. The fishermen walk out Sunday morning, but for some reason Byrne gets home late at night after his wife has gone to bed. Then first thing the next morning the cops bang on the door to get him to come down to the station. Um, they haven't heard of the telephone? Down at the station, the media know the whole story, less than 24 hours after they reported the body?
Totally missing from the story is the debate the blokes surely had after they find the body. This is a mystery - everyone asks them "how could you do that?" and the audience is asking the same question. (The debate about what to do with the body is the key scene in "Deliverance"). I know exactly what I'd do in their situation. Someone needs to walk out to the car, drive to mobile range, call the cops, wait, and them guide them back to the location. If the others wait at camp and fish, who cares?
A lot of all this just seems false. The only thing that rung true was that, as the girl was black, the local aboriginals seized on the fishermen's actions as racist - "wouldn't have done it if it was a white girl."
Throughout there is a curious indifference to who might have killed the girl (I think the subject is mentioned once), and there is no mystery, as the audience sees the killer in the opening scene.
So I'm sitting there simultaneously bored and confused, when there's a twist - not in the plot, but the theme. Suddenly it becomes about the quiet dignity of the bereaved aboriginals leading to a ludicrous ending with some incoherent stuff about black-white reconciliation. Huh?
This is Australian film "at its finest", according to The Age.
I recently saw Jindabyne in Cannes and it is a brilliant movie. Thanks
to a wonderful cast and Ray Lawrence the script comes alive on the
Four fishing buddies find a dead girl in the river. They don't report their find until a few days later. This causes anger and disappointment from their families and the rest of the town; reactions they don't seem capable of understanding.
Byrne and Linney, especially, turn every line and every second into an intense moment. They're human beings, and it shows. You understand why their characters act like they do, but you don't always accept it.
A fishing trip gone bad is one way of looking at JINDABYNE, but then
you would miss the whole mystery of this film and how it examines the
lives of others in a small Australian town, which on the surface may
seem perfect. But in JINDABYNE you soon learn that beneath the ripples
of the lake lie other factors which swirl to the surface and create a
fascinating film and story. The wind whipping through the trees and the
power lines that dot the hills make for a perfect background for this
Laura Linney, once and again, and Gabriel Byrne are two superb actors that make JINDABYNE come alive with strong performances, as well as from a seasoned cast. JINDABYNE offers us a film of human tragedy, as seen from both sides of the racial coin, and is a very timely film with all the evils that go on within today's global stage. In Ms. Linney, her face always mirrors a million emotions, and Mr. Byrne is the perfect foil for a marriage with issues. The final scenes are powerful and leave you with a question of, "what now might Jindabyne be in the near future?" However, with that said, I felt the film could have been edited a bit more tightly, and not taken so long with the development of characters and the build up to the final conclusion. But in watching the face of Laura Linney and her inner expressions, along with the writing, one can forgive the length of the film.
JINDABYNE is a disturbing, somber little film from Australia - a film
with profound observations about ethics, racism, the fragility of
marriage, the vulnerability of children's minds, and the desperate need
for respect for beliefs and peoples outside the mainstream. Beatrix
Christian adapted the screenplay from one of Raymond Carver's brilliant
short stories, 'So Much Water So Close to Home': it has been said that
Carver had 'the ability to render graceful prose from dreary,
commonplace, scrapping-the-bottom human misery' and this story embodies
all of those traits. As directed by Ray Lawrence with a cast of
excellent actors, JINDABYNE will likely become a classic movie - if
enough people will take the time and commitment to see it.
In a small town called Jindabyne in Australia a group of four men depart their families for a fishing trip: Stewart Kane (Gabriel Byrne), Carl (John Howard), Rocco (Stelios Yiakmis) and Billy (Simon Stone). While fly fishing in the back country, Stewart discovers the nude, murdered body of a dead Aboriginal girl Susan (Tatea Reilly) floating in the water, calls his buddies to witness the ugly act, and together they decide to wait until their fishing trip is over before reporting it.
When the men return home, concerned and embarrassed about their actions as they report to the police, the town is outraged at their thoughtless behavior. Yet more outraged are the wives of the men - Carl's wife Jude (Deborra-Lee Furness), Rocco's mate Carmel (Leah Purcell), Billy's 'wife' Elissa (Alice Garner) and, most of all, Stewart's wife Claire (Laura Linney) - a woman with a history of mental instability for whom her husband's insensitivity becomes intolerable. Claire sets out to 'right' things with the Aboriginal tribe who are devastated at the murder and the disregard for another human being's life that the fishermen have demonstrated. The town and the families (including children) are fractured by the deed - and the strange aspect is that no one appears concerned to discover the murderer, the greater 'crime' has been against human decency. In a powerfully moving final memorial for the dead girl every one is forced to face the dirty aspects of the recent events and come to a degree of understanding and acceptance.
Filmed in the beauty of the Australian countryside with camera technique that feels intimate and almost spying in nature, the story unfolds so naturally that the audience is made to feel a part of the dilemma at hand. The acting is first rate: Laura Linney once again proves she is one of our finest actresses, and Gabriel Byrne makes his odd character wholly believable. The supporting cast (especially the women) is outstanding. This is a sleeper of a film that deserves a wide audience, an audience ready to commit to thinking and reacting to an act and subsequent public response that, while difficult to swallow, is essential information if we are to exist in the society we have created. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
Saw "jindabyne" last night with my mum and we both loved it. The cast were just brilliant and the plot and characterisations were dealt with so subtly that it was a real pleasure to watch. It is one of those movies that you go away thinking about for days - nothing's clear cut and all the characters are so believable in their reactions. I also thought it was totally believable having an Irish and American playing two of the lead roles as Australia is such an international country. And in response to some of the previous comments, I don't think it's at all unrealistic that there was no mobile phone reception down by the river - I can barely get reception in the outer-suburbs of some capital cities!! I'm not sure if it's true, but I heard Deborah-Lee Furness on the TV yesterday morning saying that Ray Lawrence makes them shoot every scene in one take, and if that's true I'm even more impressed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This isn't art, it's inner-urban, politically-correct propaganda!
Jindabyne's political intolerance is beyond unforgivable... it doesn't
see people as individuals, but rather, as members of categories.
This is the most patronisingly offensive Australian movie I can recall ever (and it's up against some pretty stiff competition!). A message movie, every tired theme beloved of the trendy left is there: Aborigines are victims; white men are violent or alcoholics; white women aren't that bad -particularly if they are lesbians - but they're most likely of a depressive nature.
Four men who go away fishing, find the body of a murdered woman (Aboriginal, naturally) and leave her in the river for several days while they catch trout. It's a strange decision taken with almost no discussion, as if the men are animals. The one man who briefly demurs is the goodie... we know this because he's living with a bisexual woman - he likes to hold his baby a lot - and eventually moves to a more fashionable costal location (away from all these beastly bush-dwellers).
This is a film made by those trendy urbanites who live in fear of the Australian landscape and those evil rednecks who reside within. It's ignorance of country life is almost as shocking as its contempt. The film is shot through with long-distance views of the bush backed by foreboding, mysterious music. It's made very clear by the end that Aboriginal people are the only ones at home in this landscape. It concludes with an excruciatingly implausible scene of black-white reconciliation.
In Jindabyne, country life is reduced to little more than a backdrop for a story that by implication proclaims the superiority of the values of enlightened leftist urban dwellers over those of other Australians.
This film was not made by people with real jobs but funded by the Government's Film Finance Corporation. It's a product of the artsy set, that soulless void populated by the beautiful people for whom lavish government funding sustains these patronisingly offensive projects (which are as detached from real life as possible), as opposed to actually making popular films people want to see. It doesn't matter if the film is a stinker, they still get paid.
Spare yourself from wasting time, avoid it like the plague. More jaded social commentary than actual entertainment, this film deserves to pan!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This fantastic film falls short of the heights Lantana reached.... but
not by much.
Instead of doing a long review of praise and flaws, I wanted to attempt to provide my views on some of the metaphors, symbolisms and underlying themes.
1) The city at the bottom of the damn: This one seems to be the "something lies beneath the surface" type metaphor. In short, under the surface are the "ghosts" of the past. Since the film centered around the complexities of humans that lies beneath the surface and take origins from their pasts, this was a fitting metaphor.
2) Zombies: "zombies" are mentioned by the children throughout the film. What are zombies? Well - they are the undead. In following on from the previous, it would seem that the ghosts of our past remain "undead" like zombies - pressing upon us unless we confront them.
3) Billy (Simon Stone): Represents a city-minded Australian: no real clue about the sorts of issues that arise in communities like Jindabyne and turns a blind eye / walks away when things get heated - especially with respect to Aboriginal relations.
4) Fish out of water: notice that they are all fishermen, discover the girl during a fishing trip and therefore the "fish out of water" symbolism begins to play a role. Billy is a fish out of water: the only one in town always on his mobile. The two main characters are Irish and American. If you think the produces decided that Gabriel Byrne would be better publicity than an Australian actor, you're wrong. Their nationality gave them a 'fish out of water' flavour - especially in rural Australia and worked to provide a 'fish out of water' perspective on the issues raised in this film. In particular, the American seemed intent on doing the "American" thing and confronting this head on, teaching your child valuable lessons and falling over yourself to ensure that your public image is maintained. Yet - she seems dramatically out of place, not only in terms of the town but also out of place with the Aborigines she so desperately tries to reconcile with.
5) The setting: Snowy River Hydro-Electric project. This was to do with the white man disrupting nature and landscape.
6) The underlying theme: IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES. Now reconciliation was an obvious aspect because Aborigines featured prominently in the film. But there were other aspects of this film that explored the notion of irreconcilable differences. In marriage (between the two main characters) and between the American and the town & Aborigines. As other reviewers pointed out, the director prefers to leave this complex issue unresolved... as Australia has with the Aborigines.
I also felt that the dead girl was tied to a tree by her ankle to symbolise the white man almost violently "holding back" the blacks or perhaps treating them like dogs (tie them to a tree).
7) Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are weighted down by our past. Every character seems to have a past bogging them down. The grandmother of the boy remains a burden of her son's and daughter-in-law's past transgressions. The mum who vanished during her first two years of motherhood created a burden of sorts on her son. Byrne's take on his son nearly drowning was that, if she was around in his early years, perhaps she would have taught him to swim! Simple enough, but a rather complex point: even minor PAST neglect can ripple into massive consequences. Whether this is a general statement or a statement with reference to Aborigines is unclear.
The fact that the boy nearly drowns in that lake is also interesting. Perhaps we are being "pulled down" by our past? Or perhaps when it comes to Australia's past and the modern-day white man, its like swimming at the top lake, aware but oblivious to the bottom of the lake (the past).
8) The end. Everyone seems bewildered by the ending. Now I thought that people who were waiting for him to get caught or get his justice MISSED the entire point of the film: there is no justice. That's it! The Aborigines receive no justice for past mistreatment, justice is not served on the murderer, the unjust outcome for the Irish husband and his American wife at memorial service, even though they come offering their apologies and support (perhaps saying "sorry" is simply too hollow to reconcile the situation. Maybe respect from the start over an apology for a transgression is the solution - possibly a cryptic message), Byrne seems to be unjustly treated by his wife (for example, when his nose is broken), yet he works hard to provide and was forced to raise their son alone during her 'unexplained' absence. And on that issue, she unjustly presses him for answers about the body, but refuses to openly discuss why she left after giving birth. It seems that every day injustices are woven into this story and it would appear that we just have to work out a way to confront and deal with them. If not, they become a burden of our past.
Accordingly, I don't think they were implying that the killer was allergic to wasps and was stung and died - although more than a few people think that this may have been the implication. The wasp or fly or whatever it was played a simpler role in my view. He killed that girl simply like killing a black fly that was bothering him. Whether there is a connection to racism here is somewhat elusive. Perhaps he is a racist killer and represents the ghosts of the past and evil committed against Aborigines? This explains why he let the "white" woman go. But then again, he may simply represent pure evil that will always persist? Bit of a slap in the face; which is exactly how the film ends.
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