So there’s a few blokes going fishing. And they find a dead body floating in the river. And they’re upset, but hey — she’s dead, they can’t do anything. So they go on fishing, and call when their weekend is over.

In some ways, the moral dilemma at the heart of Jindabyne is so slight it’s barely a dilemma. More of a moral landslide. It would be practically impossible to justify the actions of the men. And yet, watching them, their actions are almost disturbingly understandable.1 We’re all used to seeing blokes do dumb, lazy things — if not in real life, then in innumerable TV ads. Fair enough, you might think. Have your holiday and tell them later. No harm in that. It’s that kind of head-down, justify-later, reductive stupidity that’s at the core of Jindabyne.

The film trades a lot on unspoken prejudices. Stewart (Gabriel Byrne) and his mates were quite happy to leave the aboriginal girl there. Would they have acted differently if she were younger? If she were white? If she were one of their kids? Whether caused by laziness, or racism, or selfishness, or sheer stupidity — and it’s pretty clear that the men aren’t really sure which themselves — the fall-out from their actions is tragic, and intensely involving.

Particularly involving are the characters; most of them feel like they’ve been torn out of real life and dropped in a film. Every now and then a character will verge close to a stereotype — the meddling mother-in-law for example — but then get complicated by some scarily real dialogue.2 An impressive lineup of subtle and brilliant actors produced a really immersive effect, and for the length of the film I practically forgot I was in a cinema.3 The direction is clinical, but very moving — and of course, the scenery never fails to be beautiful.

Jindabyne is by turns horrific, tense, moving and thought-provoking. It’s also, perhaps, one of the best representations of Australia I’ve seen in a film. If you’re a fan of racial tension, post-natal depression, domestic violence and creepy murderers in trucks stalking innocent girls, well — look no further, this is the film for you. But even if you don’t count yourself amongst that group, there’s probably a lot here to interest you.

  1. To me. A bit. Not really. Just at first. Ugh!
  2. And I have to say, best mother in law ever. I was squirming in my seat and actually involuntarily gasped when she reached her height of rudeness.
  3. Well, except for when Bud Tingwell turned up. I can’t really blame him, but there’s something so jolly and loveable about the man that I can’t really take him seriously in a film like this. I felt like Santa had come down to sort all the problems out.
Begone. — Caylin-Calandria

5 Responses to “Jindabyne”

  1. If I’d hiked all day to get to the fishing spot and had no communication with the outside world and it looked like an accident, then I’d wait til I got back too.

    I’m not into post-natal depression and domestic violence. Are there pretty shots of the countryside?

  2. There are many pretty shots of the countryside. I had trouble finding pictures for this review but the official site has a nice set of landscape pictures taken by the director.

    In the film, it does not look like an accident. Looks more like a murder, possibly worse. Would this change your opinion?

  3. If it was a murder, then there might be a murderer in the area. Could sway my actions. Also I don’t like fishing, so I’d go home.

    Pretty pictures.

  4. Can you explain what you mean by “clinical” directing? I want to discuss this point, but I’m don’t think I understand exactly.

  5. I was thinking about that today actually, I’m not entirely sure what I meant either. I don’t remember much hand-held work or close-ups, I suppose. The camera felt very much like an observer rather than involved in the action, which I liked. For example the fight between Claire and Stewart, which if I recall correctly sort of moved to the left of frame and fell down behind a table, and the camera stayed mostly still.

    But it’s quite possible that I’m both misremembering and talking out of my arse.