J i n d a b y n e
Under the surface of every life lies a mystery

 

Critical Review and Bibliography of Jindabyne (2006)
MED 231
Dr. Garry Gillard
27 April 2007
By: Elizabeth Haggerty

Running Time: 123 minutes
Rating: R

PRINCIPAL CAST

Laura Linney:                        Claire Kane
Gabriel Byrne:                        Stewart Kane
Chris Haywood:                          Gregory
Deborra-Lee Furness:            Jude
John Howard:                        Carl
Leah Purcell:                                    Carmel
Eva Lazzaro:                                    Caylin-Calandria
Sean Rees-Wemyss:                         Tom
Alice Garner:                                                 Elissa
Simon Stone:                                     Billy
Betty Lucas:                                     Vanessa

CREW

Director:                        Ray Lawrence

Producers:                         Philippa Bateman (executive producer)
                                    Garry Charny (executive producer)
                                    Catherine Jarman (producer)
                                    Tony Tvrdeich (line producer)

Cinematographer:            David Williamson

Scriptwriter:                        Beatrix Christian
                                   

PRODUCTION COMPANY

Produced By:                        Films Finance Corporation Australia
                                    Nomura Babcock & Brown Productions
                                    Redchair Films
                                    April Films

Distributed By:             Roadshow Films
                                    April Films

Filming Location:             New South Wales, Australia

 

RELEASE DATES

France                        23 May 2006 (Cannes Film Festival)
Australia            20 July 2006
USA                        1 September 2006 (Telluride Film Festival)
Canada            13 September 2006 (Toronto Film Festival)
Netherlands            17 September 2006 (Film by the Sea Film Festival)
Spain                        23 October 2006 (Valladolid International Film Festival)
Norway            17 November 2006 (Oslo International Film Festival)
Norway            5 January 2007
Sweden            5 January 2007
Ireland            16 February 2007 (Dublin Film Festival)
Iceland            8 March 2007 (DVD Film Festival)
Hungary            29 March 2007
Hong Kong            31 March 3007 (Hong Kong International Film Festival)

DVD Release: 29 November 2006 (Australia)

 

BOX OFFICE FIGURES

In theaters:                         $5.3 million (ranking 3rd highest revenue in Australia for 2006)

Worldwide Gross:            $2,462,665

Budget:                        $14 million AUD           
                       
AWARDS

FCCA Awards: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Deborra-Lee Furness), Best Cinematography (David Williamson), Best Director (Ray Lawrence) Best Screenplay – Adapted (Beatrix Christian).

Stockholm Film Festival: Best Screenplay and FIPRESCI Prize for Best Film.

Valladolid International Film Festival: Best Actress (Laura Linney), Best Music (Paul Kelly and Dan Luscombe).

 

INTERVIEWS WITH FILMAKERS

Ray Lawrence

RL: There’s just one little thing in a story you like and sometimes you forget everything else. It’s just that one little piece, like a hook, it catches you. With "So Much Water, So Close to Home," it was the difference of opinion that promoted very strong discussion between men and women.
            http://www.emanuellevy.com/article.php?articleID=5125

RL: In a scene, I try to get as close as I can to the truth without manipulating the audience, and hopefully the power of the scene is their recognition of that truth, and then they apply that to their own lives, so it's quite a complicated thing.
            http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1675424.htm

RL: This film has taken a lot out of me emotionally…it’s a little bit like having a baby and watching up grow up and mature.
            http://www.theage.com.au/news/dvdreviews/jindabyne/2007/02/19/1171733656488.html

RL: Jindabyne defies genres and labels, and instead, offers audiences a chance to enjoy cinematic ambiguity, as intended.
            http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=12061&s=Interviews

RL: [Beatrix Christian, writer] said, “What if the girl is an Aboriginal woman?” As soon as she said that the film became much bigger, and it became a film about something as small as a crack in a relationship to something as big as a crack in the country.
            http://paulrankin.wordpress.com/2006/07/18/cultural-relativism-and-you/

RL: I’ve always been interested in the male-female relationship and how difficult it is — what makes you stay, what makes you leave.
            http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/movies/15mcgr.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

Beatrix Christian

BC: We conceived of the story as a kind of a ghost story. Everybody in the story is haunted by something, whether it’s somebody who’s died, or whether it’s a past they would like to change, or whether it’s the person they thought they might have been but never became.
            http://www.sonyclassics.com/jindabyne/prodcredits_int_bc.html

 

REVIEWS IN NEWSPAPERS

The Sydney Morning Herald. 22 February 2007.
http://www.smh.com.au/news/dvd-reviews/jindabyne/2007/02/22/1171733937648.html
           
            Ray Lawrence's much-anticipated follow-up to his acclaimed 2001 drama Lantana             exceeds all expectations.
The Weekend Australian. 5 June 2006.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       http://www.newstext.com.au/pages/s.asp?source=newstext&indexkey=30A1472783946822935E180&_P=1&ResultMaxDocs=20&ResultCount=20&summreqd=yes&pubsel=AUS&SrchText=jindabyne+lawrence&QueryText=%28jindabyne+lawrence%29+%3CAND%3E+%28%28SDate%3E%3D04%2F13%2F2006%29%29&SortField=&SortOrder=&SortField=Pub&SortOrder=asc&SortField=EDN&SortOrder=asc&SortField=Page&SortOrder=asc&Site=ALL&datetype=1yr%3A04%2F13%2F2006&DateFrom=&DateTo
            CAN film directors make good marriage counsellors? Director Ray Lawrence is             attempting to with his latest film, Jindabyne, which he hopes will prompt couples to sit             down and talk about their relationships.
The Guardian. 4 January 2007. http://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/pqdweb?did=1200231301&sid=1&Fmt=3&clientId=9874&RQT=309&VName=PQD
            An outstanding film from the Australian director Ray Lawrence, who gave us crime             drama Lantana.
DETAILS OF THE FILM’S ON-LINE PRESENCE
            Throughout the research of Jindabyne, I came across numerous websites with reviews and information regarding the film. The April Films website, the production company, was extremely helpful. Since the film has been out for nearly a year it was relatively simple to find box office figures, reputable reviews, and other pertinent information. Also, since the film has been released internationally there was a whole host of sources to obtain reviews from. Information on director Ray Lawrence was also abundant because of the success of his past films. Most of my research was collected using search engines such as Google and Yahoo; there were pages among pages of hits. The websites ranged from trailers of the film to DVD sales to movie paraphernalia.
Following is a representative selection of websites:
Movie News, Reviews and Previews: http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/movies.php?id=2273                            
Yahoo! Trailer and Clips:au.movies.yahoo.com/Jindabyne/movie/15491/featured-review
Infilm Australia: www.infilm.com.au/reviews/jindabyne.htm

 

PART II
CRITICAL REVIEW OF FILM
            Jindabyne is tale of a murder and a marriage in turmoil. Jindabyne is a chilling story that stays with the viewer long after the closing credits. Stewart, Billy (“the Kid”), Carl and Rocco are four men, all middle aged besides Billy, who set out to the wilderness for a boys-only camping and fishing trip. Not long into the camping trip Stewart comes across the naked body of a young girl face down in the river. In a terrorized panic he shouts for the other men. The men are shocked and begin discussion of what to do with the body. The sensible thing would have been to hike up to cell phone range land and phone the authorities. However, the men decide that they will tether her leg to a branch and continue fishing. At the conclusion of the trip the men finally report the finding of the body. The hometown of the men is shook by the story. As more and more details filter out, the town becomes more and more outraged. After the girl is identified as Aboriginal the story transforms into a race issue.
            The wives of the men are greatly affected by their husbands’ actions. The relationship between Stewart and Claire is heart of the story. Claire in the past we learn has suffered from postpartum depression following the birth of their only son, Tom. Stewart treats Claire like she is a time bomb waiting for the ideal moment to explode. While Claire may be overemotional, she is justified in wanting to know and understand how her husband could have left the girl lying there naked-she needed help. The problem is that Claire and Stewart cannot see eye to eye on this matter. Stewart reasoned that she was dead when they found her and she’ll be in the same condition at the end of the trip. Claire on the other hand cannot even fathom how her husband could be so cruel and cold-hearted. And at one point she asks her husband “if the body had been a young boy, would you have done the same thing?”
            Stewart is not convinced that he has done anything wrong. Seeing the indifference in her husband, Claire begins to lose faith in their marriage. As the story becomes the talk of the town the men are confronted with the decisions they made on the fishing trip. Their morals are challenged and they are faced to deal with the aftermath of their actions. Claire does not back down, she is determined to set things right both with her husband and the family of the Aboriginal girl, Susan.

Personal Commentary           
The movie, while slow moving at times, is rather intense and unpredictable in many scenes. Overall, it allows the viewer to sympathize with the characters. The movie has many scenes that would be classified as ordinary; for example, the wives sitting around chatting over a cup or coffee. However, in these ordinary activities the audience is invited inside the minds of the characters. All and all Jindabyne is a thoughtfully crafted film that addresses the simple issue of how trust is so vital in relationships.

CRITICAL UPTAKE
As with all works of art there will be reviewers on both sides of the fence. I will start with the positive uptake of the film because looking at the box office figures and the number of national and international awards, I’d classify Jindabyne as a success. Jindabyne is a film that not only appeals to middle aged married couples, but also to those interested in the societal placement of Aboriginals and the complex relationships between men and women. Overall, the majority of reviews were positive in their nature.
            The Age hailed it as "easily one of the most engrossing, thoughtful, adult-oriented big-            screen dramas produced in Australia for 20 years.”
            Kim Voynar of the Telluride Review writes “Director Ray Lawrence captures in             Jindabyne both the intimacy of the lives of married people and the broader fabric of a             community -- and the soap-bubble fragility of our perceptions of our lovers, friends and                         neighbors.”
            Megan Lehmann of the Hollywood Reporter claims “Jindabyne is a coiled and enigmatic             psychodrama that cements Australian director Ray Lawrence's standing as a fine, if not             prolific, filmmaker.”

Jindabyne was much anticipated because of the heralding success of Director Ray Lawrence’s prior films. However, this anticipation left some critics in disappointment. A common theme in all the negative reviews is that Jindabyne is compared to Lantana and Bliss, movies with different motives and themes.
            Harvey Karten of Compuserve writes “With all the fade-in, fade-out scenes, the             multiplicity of incidents, the arguments between Stewart and Claire that seem to be over             nothing, one longs for a clearer narrative.”
            Robert Koehler with Variety states “As in Lantana, the adult characters of             Jindabyne             must contend with sudden moral choices, while also keeping their family units             together. But, underdeveloped characters, scenes and sequences plus vague and             unsatisfying hints at mystical socio-political themes and a sluggish pace, keep pic from             reaching its high ambitions.”
            David Nusair of Reel Film Reviw comments that “Jindabyne is based on a short story             comes as absolutely no surprise, as the film feels as though it's been needlessly padded             out to achieve a longer running time.”

 

CIRCUMSTANCES AROUND PRODUCTION
            Ray Lawrence started thinking about Jindabyne over 20 years ago after the release of his first movie, Bliss. One afternoon, reading for pleasure, Lawrence read Raymond Carver’s short story “So Much Water So Close to Home” and was intrigued by the plot of the story. He described the story as a “fantastic moral dilemma.” Lawrence met with screenwriter Beatrix Christian and the two decided to visit one of Lawrence’s favorite spots, Jindabyne, and see where the film would go from there. The two came across a river and the result was the inspiration for the adaptation of Carver’s short story. 
            The entire cast and crew would agree that Jindabyne was set an extremely difficult filming location. It was at least a 45 drive from any civilization and over a 2 km walk from the main road. Although, it was a hassle to get there, the stark beauty of the mountains made up for the inconvenience. Lawrence chose only to use natural light and natural scenery. The cast and crew worked long 10-hour days and the film was in the works for nearly four years; however, the duration of the shooting was only 8 weeks.
            Jindabyne premiered May 23, 2006 at the Cannes Film Festival in France where it was widely received. It premiered in Australia on July 20, 2006 and has subsequently been released throughout the world at film festivals and in theaters (please refer to film information above for exact dates). It is to premiere in United States theaters on April 27, 2007. In Australia, four weeks after the release of Jindabyne, it took in $3.2 million dollars. It opened in just 65 cinemas and eventually infiltrated to 81.

PRIOR AND SUBSEQUENT WORK OF FILMMAKERS AND ACTORS
            Ray Lawrence made his film debut with the black comedy Bliss in 1985. Bliss received high praises and was nominated for 13 AFI awards, securing Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director. However, Lawrence struggled to find more work so he returned to his former job as a television commercial director. This all changed in 2001 with the release of Lantana, a drama film embedded in a mystery. Again the film was nominated for 13 AFI awards, this time taking away seven wins. Jindabyne, based on Raymond Carver’s short story “So much water so close to home,” was released in 2006 and is Lawrence’s third and most recent film. Jindabyne has had and continues to have world-wide success.
            Beatrix Christian began her successful career in 1992 with the writing of the play “Spumante Romantica” which was produced by Sydney’s Griffin Theatre. Christian has also written a number of other plays including “Blue Murder” and “Fred.” Additionally, she has adapted various plays for the Sydney Theatre Company such as “Chekhov’s Three Sisters” and “Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.” Christian, a well known screenwriter in Australia, was the recipient of the Australia National Playwrights Conference New Dramatists Award. Jindabyne was her first screenwriting for a major motion picture.
            Laura Linney is an American actress who began her career on Broadway in the mid 1980s. Linney’s film career began with small roles in Lorenzo’s Oil (1992) and Dave (1993). Her first big-screen role came in 1996 when she played the ex-girlfriend of Richard Gere in Primal Fear. Much praise was given to Linney for this role but it was not until her performance in You Can Count on Me (2002) that she became widely known. Linney has acted in a host of other films, often playing dramatic roles, such as Mystic River (2003) and Kinsey (2004).
Gabriel Byrne is an Irish actor who held many different careers, including an archaeologist, a schoolteacher, a short-order cook, and a bullfighter, before devoting his life to acting. Some of his well known roles include the priest from Stigmata (1999) and Satan in End of Days (1999).

CONTEMPORARY HORIZONS
            Often movies that do well in the box office in Australia do not fair as well abroad. This is likely due to a combination of the accents, excessive scenery, and jokes that only Australians would have insight to. However, Jindabyne focuses more on universal themes and has proven successful in attracting international audiences by the sheer number of international awards. Lawrence commented that one of the drawing features of the film was that it shows on the screen what it truly means to be human. The power of the film often comes in what is not directly said. Also, the film does an excellent job in addressing the racial issue in the treatment of the Aboriginals.
            In my limited personal experience with Australian Cinema, I believe that Jindabye provides a contemporary look into Australian culture, while allowing international viewers to relate to the film's themes.  The theme of family and relationship problems is a universal theme throughout all cultures, which is why Lawrence’s film has been so successful in Australia and abroad. Despite Jindabyne encompassing universal themes, the films’ Australianness, found in the setting of the small mountainous village of Jindabyne, is still easily detectable and is what makes the film truly Australian.
            Jindabyne is a film that Australia should be proud of; not just for its international praise but for it accurately representing Australian culture. The slow atmospheric build of the film and the emphasis on scenery are two very distinct Australian features of the film. Jindabyne, premiering just over a year ago, will most certainly make its footprint on the cinema industry. Additionally, it will be interesting to see if the success of the film in the United States, premiering on April 27, 2007, will match the universal success of the film.

GENRE
            In the majority of the research conducted, Jindabyne is classified as a drama but this is rather a large generalization. More specifically under the category of drama, this film would be classified as a family/social drama. The heart of the film focuses on a moral dilemma and the complex relationship between a husband and wife. The relationships Claire holds with her husband, mother-in-law and friend Jude, are relationships that the vast majority of viewers can easily relate to. Additionally, the tension that arises between Claire and Stewart over the issue of how to punish their son is an extremely common marital problem.
             Research has also led me to find Jindabyne classified as a thriller. This classification is derived from the first few minutes of the movie when you’re confronted with an eerie feeling following the murder of the young Aboriginal girl, Susan. Additionally, I came across the film described as an art film and suspense film. The complexity of the story, including the murder, the shattering of a relationship, the differences between the behaviors of men and women, the breath-taking scenery, and treatment of Aboriginals, makes it difficult to classify Jindabyne into an exclusive genre of film.
WORKS CITED
The following websites are where the information about Jindabyne was gathered:
Variety’s Festival and Markets (Accessed 12 April 2007) http://www.variety.com/index.asp?layout=features2006&content=jump&jump=review&dept=cannes&nav=RCannes&articleid=VE1117930632&cs=1     
666 ABC Canberra (Accessed 14 April 2007)                             http://www.abc.net.au/canberra/stories/s1683751.htm
International Movie Database
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0887722/fullcredits

Reel.com (Accessed 12 April 2007)
www.reel.com/reel.asp?node=features/interviews/lawrence

Rotten Tomatoes (Accessed 13 April 2007)
www.rottentomatoes.com/m/jindabyne