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 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 Australia.
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.
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 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.
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 film.
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" (pronounced JIN-da-bine) is a 2006 film about a crisis in an Australian town. Four guys on a fishing trip in the wilderness discover a body of a young woman in a creek, a woman who's part aboriginal; they decide to finish their activities before reporting the body 2 days later. When the press gets ahold of the story the men are criticized for their irresponsibility; their actions are also interpreted as racist by the local native population. Claire (Laura Linney), the wife of one of the men, Stewart (Gabriel Byrne), can't believe they didn't immediately report the body and becomes suspicious of the incident. Meanwhile the killer is on the loose.
"Jindabyne" combines elements of "Deliverance" (1972) and "Picnic at Hanging Rock" (1975). The similarities with the former are obvious, while it shares the latter's haunting ambiance and overall mysteriousness of the Australian wilderness (albeit Eastern Australia rather than Western).
While "Jindabyne" isn't the most captivating piece of celluloid and leaves some aspects unresolved, it did hold my attention and the story provokes numerous insights and questions. For instance, the killer is revealed in the opening shot. This isn't someone frothing at the mouth with evil, but rather an ordinary-looking electrician which shows that there are ordinary-looking people out there who have no qualms about snuffing out a person's life for their own selfish purposes, just as there are people who would steal, molest or falsely testify without a second thought. We shouldn't assume everyone's like us. There are evil people out there who prey on others. If the aboriginal girl had realized this she wouldn't have allowed herself to fall into the killer's grasp.
The story gives evidence that the men were fishoholics excited about their adventure and simply weren't prepared to handle the burden and responsibility of a mysterious dead body. Hence, they temporarily blocked out the corpse and continued their endeavors. Later, in the big fight scene with Claire, Stewart admits with all the rage that only guilt can cook up, that it did FEEL GOOD to be fishing for awhile, free from the shackles of his every-day mundane existence in "civilization." But how could it? Maybe because many men have the ability to focus on the moment and, basically, forget, for a while, the circumstances surrounding them.
This, I think, director Ray Lawrence portrays effectively in the fishing scene. The scene is a soothing interlude between moments of tension; it's like momentary heaven on earth. And then they remembered the dead body.
Many say the movie is about making a stupid decision and the requisite consequences, as well as repentance, forgiveness and compassion. True, but the movie is also about the differences between the way man and woman view and deal with reality. I doubt most women would be able to ignore the presence of a corpse enough to enjoy a fishing holiday, which explains why Claire becomes appalled at the incident. No wonder she looks at her husband as if she doesn't know him; their marriage was already strained and this rips it apart (to say nothing of the weirdo mother-in-law -- she'd give anyone the heebie-jeebies!).
Another scene that depicts this difference is when Stewart comes home from the fishing trip in the middle of the night. Feeling guilty and confused, he needs to make love to Claire, to regain a bit of his humanity. Talking about it is not an option, there are simply no words. It's evidently a way for Stewart to "skip" the whole event, to pretend he's not concerned by it.
Yet, I think the film is about scapegoating more than anything. A young girl is dead and it's next to impossible to discern who did it, so the community's collective pain is hurled at the four who trivialized her death in order to preserve their holiday. Also, the film obviously compares the men's cavalier disregard with the heartless indifference of the killer himself. Which isn't to say they're as bad as the murderer, not at all, but they do share one of the traits that enables him to do what he does.
Theories on the implications of the bee sting: (1) It represents the girl taking some small revenge now that she was one with nature. (2) It showed nature beginning to assert its dominance over this man who professes a psychological link with artificial power, and the way he uses nature to abet his crimes (i.e. hiding in the rocks and disposing of his victims in the stream). (3) It simply shows that his cycle of predation and murder is an eroding one, in that the longer he keeps doing it the more things will happen that are beyond his control, and will eventually lead to his discovery. (4) It signifies how a murderer can kill a person with no remorse or anything, just like killing an insect. And (5) It shows how the killer's still alive since he can feel and react to the bee whereas the girl's dead and gone as her body is unable to feel or react to the insects transgressing her corpse (as depicted in an earlier scene).
The only criticism I can voice concerns the corpse of the girl; her body almost looks sexy, which is never the case in real life and even more so in this case since the body's been dead for awhile and lying in a creek under the hot sun. My wife works at a burial park and sees bodies all the time, young and old. Corpses are gross and smelly. Death is never sexy.
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.
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 screen.
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.
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
Before I watched this film I read a review here stating that this film could possibly be one of the best films ever!? ha ha Scene by scene the tension grows alright... from the annoying characters in this movie. From the little girl talking gibberish and trying to drown the little boy, to the killer just running about without any notice (and who was the guy at the beach talking to the little boy!?)..things just seem to happen and then go unanswered in this film. As I watched it seemed like the film was going in one direction, then just doesn't go anywhere, but into a new direction...and on and on...
The acting is great, but the writing is horrible. Each character, in each scene, says or does something so unbelievable, unrealistic and the reactions of the fellow cast/extras are simply strange. There are no resolutions to the problems developed throughout the film, making it confusing and ultimately a big waste of time.
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.
Despite good acting and rich exploration of interrelated dysfunctional family situations -- the same kind of thing Australian director Ray Lawrence's 'Lantana' was notable for, so he's doing what he wants to do -- 'Jindabyne' doesn't work, and it leaves one feeling unsatisfied.
Lawrence has so much going on in this film, it's as if Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'Babel' had been concentrated into one little Australian town. And it's all interesting. It begins with the four men on an ill-fated fishing trip in the Raymond Carver story "So Much Water So Close to Home," on which this film is based. Making their camp up in the woods one of the men finds a dead woman floating in the river. It's a long way from the car, a very long way from home. The weather's lovely, the fish are big, and they're easy to catch, and these things lead the men to make a strategic and logistical and moral error. There's been a murder. It needs to be reported right away. You don't put a serious crime scene on hold till you finish your recreational activities. But that's what they choose to do. They tie the body to keep it from floating away, and do their fishing before they call the cops.
In the Carver story, this miscalculation fundamentally does only one important thing: it aggravates an already strained relationship in the case of the main couple, the story being told from the viewpoint of the wife. 'Jindabyne' isn't any different. Claire (Laura Linney), the wife, is still the main character. The same thing happens to the relationship. Only everything else is ratcheted up too, with all sorts of additional complications and damaged relationships added. The men's carelessness is the big headline in the local paper. That's in the short story too, only this time there's not just the name of Stewart (Gabriel Byrne) but a photograph (bigger than small town photos normally get to be) of the youngest, most uncomplicated member of the party, Billy (Simon Stone), holding up a fish with a goofy smile under a big banner headline: "MEN FISH OVER DEAD BODY." Unlike Stewart, who knew they had to lie and get their lies to mesh, Billy's been candid. He's also disadvantaged by being a carefree guy with a happy marriage and a little kid. The movie banishes him before it's over, leaving only the dour and troubled majority. Some of the others come to blows, and their marriages start to strain too. And in and out of the whole thing is woven some pretty portentous music.
Not only has the American story been transplanted to the vast spaces of Australia; it's been given a racial dimension. The dead woman is of aboriginal origin, and her people look on the men's delay as a "white hate crime" and vandalize the culprits' houses and businesses. The killer's another new dimension, if a vague one. Carver's killer was anonymous and just got caught the next day: this one's a dangling thread. We see him trap the victim on the road and dump her body later. But how he does it and why we never learn; he's just a figure who keeps reappearing all the way through. Another new complication: the main couple isn't either white or aboriginal Australian: they're the Irish Byrne (in full brogue here) and the American Linney (in full bustling American mode), and their problems go back to the earliest time of their marriage. And Claire's troubles have been expanded to include a pregnancy, and personal conflicts not only with Stewart but with her Irish mother-in-law, one of the few uncomplicated characters. She wants to help; but she gets brutal treatment from both spouses for her trouble. Their little boy, Dean (Carver's name again) is a bona-fide character, and he has a little girlfriend who's a bad influence -- though she does sort of trick him into learning how to swim, one of this downbeat film's few positive events.
The Irish Stewart is a weak, dishonest, TV-watching beer-guzzler who screws like a robot, and Claire, who so characterizes him, is an emasculating busybody do-gooder. True to form -- or true to stereotype though this may seem, both are well-meaning people. But there's a culture clash between them, and Claire's American desire to work everything out clashes with the white Australians' way of quietly moving on.
There's no faulting any of the actors, who bring everything wonderfully to life, however negative or depressing their characters' situations or mindsets. The fault is with a screenplay that doesn't just make Carver's story -- already recreated effectively, and economically, as one segment of Robert Altman's 'Short Cuts' -- into something richer and more complex, but into something so complicated it becomes difficult to care about what happens because there is nothing to focus on. Despite an awkwardly "healing" aboriginal memorial service and spirit-expulsion that the fishing party men and their families attend (rather reluctantly except for Claire, who's been campaigning to raise money for it and insists they must go to) -- and despite all the crap hitting various fans -- nothing really does happen. Notably the Carver story, for all its tight-lipped ambiguity, allows for a simple final reconciliation: quick sex.
An aspect of the over-plotting of 'Jindabyne' is that despite characters who come alive, the central ones all appear to be just flailing hopelessly about. The film so takes its time getting down to business with the fishing trip that the discovery of the body loses effect (must we see each man catch his fish?), and it's not till half way through running time that the men return and are confronted with their error. Then things come to life -- for a while. But as the film begins to wander from subplot to subplot, that energy dissipates again. An honorable failure, perhaps, but nonetheless a pretty complete one, 'Jindabyne' may not be pure punishment, but it's lacking in real rewards.
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 is a 'typical' Ray Lawrence film. Similar in its dark view of the world, to his earlier 'Lantana'. The same slow, deliberate, menacing pace, drawing out evil in every corner ("shades of David Lynch's Twin Peaks" here). Our good ol' boy Aussies (one a transplanted Irish), on a weekend trout fishing trip away from their wives, 'park' the corpse of a murdered woman they discover floating in their stream. They continue with their fishing, not reporting the find until leaving the site - for which they are intensively and unremittingly attacked by all and sundry on their return. The fact that the dead woman is an Australian Aboriginal person adds to the 'political' impact of their offense. Through all this, the real serial killer (who we see from the first scene) hovers menacingly nearby.
An interesting, if somewhat cynical, view of the highly charged inter-racial atmosphere in the Australian community: white guilt and 'political correctness'. Who are the real villains here? Our 'politically incorrect' (and morally vacuous) protagonists? Or the murderer? Accoring to Lawrence, the former, apparently.
Taught and tense throughout, the film lacks a real resolution, opting instead for a rather 'weak' ending through the redemption of the fishers.
Ray Lawrence has done it again. This film has made me see the Australian landscape in a way that I haven't really since seeing Picnic at Hanging Rock. The feeling as the lads start on the fishing trip is somewhat Hitchcockian, since we know that we're going to see the body sometime soon - we just don't know when. There's a sense of oppression and expectation overlaid on the natural beauty, that holds you transfixed.
The film may be criticised since it doesn't try and resolve anything on a a material level. However, Lawrence is more interested in the internal lives of his characters - all of them. He also doesn't want to hand us the exposition on a platter. There's back-stories that are unfolded gradually, making us think about the characters as we are pointed to knowledge of what lead them to their current lives. I'm glad to see a film made for people to think about, rather than spoon-feeding us some clichés about how hard life can be for the protagonists.
Water plays a significant role throughout the movie, from the river where the fishermen find the body, to Lake Jindabyne, and the ghost stories about the drowned town. We're made to dive into the lives of the characters, finding deeper and deeper layers of motivation as we move from the warm surface of their lives to the colder and more fragile hidden depths. We see that the body in the river acts as a sort of stand-in for each character's transformation in a death and rebirth of the spirit.
This is another masterpiece work from a master film maker.
It was reassuring to see, here, a couple of negative reviews of Jindabyne: I was starting to think I was the only person in the world who found this film disappointing. Why disappointing? First and foremost, I had expected better from the makers of Lantana, which, while slightly overrated, was a fine film. I had expected that Ray Lawrence's next film would be better still, whereas in fact it is not in the same class. I realise that film reviews are largely subjective, and saying that it just didn't "work" for me is not saying a great deal. The best I can do is to explain why it didn't "work". I found the depiction of the film's central incident the men's reaction to the finding of the body, and their subsequent actions (or inactions) frankly unbelievable. To react with (it seemed to me) almost exaggerated horror, and then for the next couple of days to blithely ignore the fact that there was a dead body tethered to a log a short distance away, while they angled pleasantly in the same river, seemed something that people simply wouldn't do. I mean, if their initial reaction had been a lot more low-key, or if there had been some other aspect of their reaction which had made their subsequent heartless indifference to their obvious moral and legal duty more believable, then the whole scenario would have been more credible. For me, the film suffered a blow at that point from which it never recovered. The other main aspect of the film which I felt didn't work was the rather muddled attempt to establish a kind of spiritual undercurrent (if you'll excuse the pun) which ran through the film. It was, like, the drowned town, with its old folks (now, presumably, dead) sitting in their rocking chairs; likewise the old people interviewed in the video: all those dead people, down there, under the water; and the spirits of those dead people rising from their watery graves to come and threaten to drag people swimming in the lake down to the depths (how many times was that motif used!); and those same spirits humming through the wires to freak Billy out as he takes a leak down in the bush, and infecting the mind of the serial killer; and the unearthly, orphaned child with the weird name practising the black arts she learned (inherited?) from her dead (drowned?) mother; and the aboriginal smoke ceremony; and the invocation of St. Brigid; and and and Mumbo-jumbo was the term that sprang to mind. Further criticism? I thought the serial killer was a quite gratuitous imposition on the film. In Lantana, the death which drove the action of the film was accidental. Why wasn't a similar device used here? Why a serial killer? Why that final scene?? The theme of the serial killer as a kind of malevolent force in nature was dealt with much better (and with a nicely gruesome humour) in Wolf Creek (another Australian film). What else? I found the characters on the whole a highly unsympathetic bunch, which for me made it difficult to get emotionally involved with their lives and issues. A better actor than Laura Linney might have carried off more successfully the attempt to portray the guilt associated with her realisation of her family's part in the tragedy, and also with her decision to kill her own (unborn) child, and her resulting clumsy attempts to "make things right". I think a good film could have been made using this subject matter, but only by going about it very differently.
Wow. What a great film. I've just gone to see this with my English Class, and after seeing this I can only recommend that others make the effort as well.
The story follows a group of men who venture deep into the New South Wales bush to go fishing. While they are away, they discover the body of a young aboriginal woman. The reporting of the body is delayed by several days, causing severe upset in the small local town of Jindabyne.
I can associate with the emotions of these four fellows; I live in Tasmania and go trout fishing at every spare opportunity. However, I found it disturbing that an aspect of the larrikin attitude continued after the discovery of the body, and that they became detached and desensitized to the fact this woman had a family; something I believe Ray Lawrence wanted us to feel.
As the viewers, we can see that the four men are not racist, and it was simply poor judgment that left them in their situation. It is also easy to understand why they could be mistaken as racist. What made matters worse for me was the fact that they didn't acknowledge their mistakes after they returned to the township... bad move.
Congrats to Lawrence for having the guts to stand up and highlight an issue that is usually left untouched... reconciliation. Claire and Stewart both had interesting roles, Claire being the American stereotype and trying to fix things up, but not realizing she was doing more harm than good. Very clever suggestion there...
As spacemoose mentioned, Ray Lawrence raises a valid point... if White Australia does say 'Sorry' to the Aboriginal community, what happens then? Do we just move on... I highly doubt it. There is always going to be tensions between these two races, as the past is not an issue we can push to one side and forget about...
I spent several days reflecting on the last scene of the film. I was expecting justice, and the murderer to be caught... I was extremely disappointed when this didn't happen, but then it hit me.... the point of the film is that the is no justice. Using the murderer to convey his message, Lawrence is suggesting that White Australias history is completely unjust... a fair and valid point.
Last of all... the wasp. ??? I thought at first. I believe this is yet another metaphor for White Australia, and our efforts to 'push away' the problem of Indigenous relations like an annoying buzzing insect, an issue that needs addressing.
I suggest all Australians should make the effort to see this film. It may seem a little slow at first, but it has many hidden messages that everyone needs to hear.
At a simple level Jindabyne is the story of four men who make a bad moral choice, to delay the reporting of a deceased woman while they continue their fishing trip. The story follows the repercussions as their choices become known in the small country town.
Jindabyne is good on this level, but it's real strength is in the complexity of the story. It is not only this study on personal decisions, but on White Australia's relationship with the land and with it's indigenous inhabitants.
The men are unable to admit the abhorrence of their actions, and in this respect they can easily be recognised as a metaphor for the colonising forces that invaded Australia. They also reflect contemporary Australia's inability to reconcil it's past with it's future.
The wives, and in particular the lead wife, is that part of Australia which is frantically trying to seek amends with the actions of white Australia. Though she is continually rebuffed by the family of the Aboriginal girl. They seem to suspect that she is apologising not to them, but for herself, for her husband... attempting to gain some kind of moral absolution with apology. This is the problem Australia faces now with it's cultural battles for our nations history... what if white Australia does make an apology for Aboriginal genocide... what if the apology is accepted? Will life just go on? Will the white people believe this apology is all that is required of them? The other theme in the film is the anxiety of the Australian bush. The beautiful countryside is at once shown as peaceful, but more often as threatening. This recalls much of Australian/settlers psyche in relation to this unknown environment.... see movies such as Picnic at Hanging Rock, or The Proposition.
Please ignore the previous comment, the Aboriginal people do not ruin the white peoples lives at all. And this comment shows the expectations that an apology ought to be accepted, which then makes the apology conditional on acceptance - If you won't accept the apology, then I'm not going to apologise.
But this is not a movie about Aboriginal people so much as it is about settler-anxiety.
As a film it beautiful creates the tension and anxiety (that word again) one feels in the isolated Australian bush. wonderful Music, sound and cinematography create an air of the surreal and a lurking hidden danger.
With no fault to the actors (they all put on great performances), the overall story was not very well executed. The movie opens with a great zinger: a crazy old guy forces a young Aborigine girl's car off the road. But then, we're forced to endure 40 minutes of character development with an entirely new group of characters ... and we don't know why until the 40 minutes are up. It turns out that they are the ones who eventually discover the girl's body ... and the story progresses from there.
While the story does pick up at that point, it really goes nowhere. After 2 hours, I asked myself: was there a point to this, or was it just to see the characters struggle with accusations of racism and stupidity of how they handled the discovery? The story was ultimately unsatisfying and felt unfinished. While it is well acted, there's not a strong enough backbone in the film to warrant recommending it.
After thinking about Jindabyne for several days (and probably the best thing about the film is that it does merit some thought) I'm still not quite sure why I dislike it so much.
It's not that I don't appreciate Ray Lawrence's previous work. 'Bliss' was a well-made interpretation of the book, though both the film and the book have dated rather badly. 'Lantana' was a great film that helped to revive confidence in the Australian film industry. But now we have 'Jindabyne'.
In a way 'Jindabyne' is a logical progression of the themes explored in Lawrence's earlier work - the angst and dislocation of the well-educated middle class; for although 'Jindabyne' is concerned with mainly "working class" characters it's underlying themes are middle class themes, and not only are they middle class themes they are the themes of the bourgeois middle class.
This is perhaps the source of the disconnect that flawed the film for me; a disconnect which, ironically, is one of the film's major themes. No one in the film seems to sit well in the landscape, not even the Aborigines. None of the actors seem to sit well in their characters. The progression of the script does not sit well with the promise of the introductory scenes. I just didn't like where the film went, or more precisely the mish-mashed route that it took.
None of the characters in the film were particularly sympathetic, some of the acting was a little forced, the theme of the effect of the past on present circumstances and the need for reconciliation was clichéd and handled in a wishy-washy, hand-wringing manner. Many aspects of the plot development were not convincing. The film finished without any real resolution of the interpersonal and interracial themes it had raised. Even the crime at the centre of the film was not resolved. In fact the film literally tip-toed around the edges of the real crime, raising bourgeois chimeras that prevented me from connecting with it in any meaningful way.
It's been a while since I've seen this movie, but it deserves a review for highlighting all that's wrong with the Australian film industry. To make a movie in Australia, you all but have to obtain government film funding, which is decided by bureaucrats that prove the old adage: those that can, do, those that can't become film bureaucrats. These depressed, politically correct, failed filmmakers, a product of government-backed film schools that churn out thousands of like-minded confrères, favour social realism and fund topics such as drug addiction, domestic violence, racial intolerance and rural horror. Hence the litany of depressing, ugly portraits of Australia, which are to tourism what cyanide is to fine dining.
Jindabyne is typically ponderous and depressing. It highlights feminist and indigenous themes, a prerequisite for funding it seems, culminating in ludicrously irrelevant scenes of traditional Aboriginal mourning. Saddest of all, this was hailed at the time as a pinnacle of Australian cinema, the critics as delusional as the government-suckled film industry. The public voted with its box office dollars, and largely avoided this movie, along with most of the dreary drivel produced in the last, lost decade of Australian filmmaking.
So, I'd avoid this movie and see Robert Altman's Short Cuts. Not even an original plot line, Jindabyne is based on a Raymond Carver short story, which Short Cuts handles infinitely better.
I really wanted to like this film...but ultimately found it a slow, self important, tedious, offensive mess. It's as though the producers tried to tick every PC box to get film Australia funding. (Lesbians, Aboriginals, all the white men are evil) PAHH-LEEEZE. Not a single likable or sympathetic character in the whole sorry charade. I gave up caring for anyone in the film and started hoping the 'serial killer' would start picking them off.. just to relieve the tedium.
What could have been an interesting film ( good premise, great locations, strong cast) simply get's mired in it's own bloated sense of self importance.
I had read so many good reviews about this film, so just HAD to see it. Well about half an hour into it, I was bored to death and it didn't get any better.
Basic plot summary: young aboriginal girl gets raped and murdered and dumped in the local water system near a rural township. Four friends off on a fishing weekend in a secluded location, find the body. Instead of reporting it, one of the party ties the body up and they carry on with their holiday. They later report the find to the police and incur a backlash from the local and the aboriginal community. Each person and their spouse react differently and it is this character exploration that is central to the film's story.
It sounds good and original. However the pace was too slow and I felt nothing for the characters. Laura Linney's character meant well, but she was sickeningly self-righteous. There was also a very poisonous little girl who I found difficult to watch as her behaviour bordered on sociopathic. The only character I liked was Laura Linney's son.
My summary: slow, hard to watch and completely unsympathetic characters.
There were times when watching this movie that i honestly though i might cry at the thought it hadn't yet ended. An attempt at atmospheric cinema gone horribly wrong. Possibly the slowest moving film i have ever seen and without a single character to relate to (or care about) Jindabyne truly was a tedious couple of hours viewing.
Such a disappointment when compared to the awesome reviews i had seen about this film. One can only assume it was a very slow day when those were written.
Maybe the beauty of Laura Linney's character is that you want to smack her in the face, but then again it means you spend Two hours wanting to smack her in the face.