What You Need To Know:
The camerawork in JINDABYNE is beautiful. The aboriginal music is haunting. The acting is commendable. The problem is the depressing plot. The studio representative told the reviewers that it was a long movie. What she didn't say is that it was made longer by the static dialogue and extended scenes. Also, the movie's worldview is strongly pagan and animistic, with lots of very strong foul language, some violence, nudity, and strong sexual content. All the characters are unbearable and dysfunctional.
(PaPa, C, FRFR, HoHo, PCPC, LLL, VV, SS, NNN, AA, DD, MM) Strong pagan, animistic worldview articulated with some Christian content, some references to God and prayer, one scene with a pastor, one reference to the Virgin Mary, and many references to aboriginal spirits and a suggestion of reincarnation, plus lots of discussions of lesbians and a strong politically correct tone about indigenous native populations, in this case Australia and its aborigine population; 17 profanities (many of which are Oh God), 40 obscenities (including some "f" words), and breast feeding; strong violence includes abused and beaten dead woman's body shown by killer being put into truck and thrown into water, nude dead woman's body with scars tied up by fishing lines in a river, mortuary viewing of dead body with cuts and bruises, man slugged in nose with serious bleeding for several minutes, man pummels wife and mother, aborigines threaten whites, aborigines throw rock through trailer home, aborigine man throws rocks at Irish man, wife aborts baby to get back at husband, little boy and girl torture animals and kill guinea pig and bird, aborigine girl takes pleasure in getting a little boy who can't swim come into deep water and watching him almost drown, etc.; strong sexual content includes men closely examine body of nude woman who has been raped and murdered, husband fondles wife, heavy kissing, and lots of discussion of lesbians; nude woman's body in water with skimpy panties, lots of shots of nude dead body, upper male nudity, child nudity; drinking to get drunk; smoking and references to drug use; and, strong miscellaneous immorality such as lying to police and families, covering up information, and rapist murderer gets away with his crime.
JINDABYNE is an intentionally depressing movie from Australia. It opens by warning native Australians that there are scenes and voices of dead people in the movie.
Jindabyne is a resort town in the Snowy River Mountain area. The original town, shown in a documentary played to elementary school students, was submerged in a man-made lake. One little aborigine girl, Caylin-Calandria, tells her little white friend, Tom, that the spirits of the dead townspeople live in the lake like zombies. Spiritism is the movie’s recurring theme, ending up with an aborigine funeral where the whites come to apologize to the aborigines and a suggestion of reincarnation.
Little Caylin-Calandria has lost her aborigine mother and is being taken care of by her white grandparents. She is a troubled girl who talks Tom into torturing animals and takes pleasure in seeing Tom almost drown.
Tom’s own mother, Claire, has severe psychological problems. Claire left home for 14 months just after Tom was born. She yells at her husband Stewart, a former Irish race car driver, that he is completely clueless and that all he does is watch TV, drink beers and fornicate badly like a machine. She hates her mother-in-law, who has some Catholic Christian sensibility and tells Claire that children are a gift from God.
After this set up, Stewart and his friends, Carl, Rocco and Billy, go into the Snowy Mountains and hike to a lonely, isolated river. There, they find the nude body of an aborigine girl who the audience saw killed and dumped in the river by a grizzled old white electrician. Rather than take the girl out of the river, they tie her up with fishing line and continue to fish for three days.
When they get back, their politically incorrect insensitivity hits the fan. The aborigines are furious. They trash their offices, throw rocks through their windows, and spray paint their buildings. Claire tries to show compassion for the aborigines while she shows that she despises Stewart and his friends.
The camera is positioned in such a way that one doesn’t know whether everyone is being observed by the spirits of the dead or by the serial killer electrician. This is a very depressing, dysfunctional group of people. They are the living dead and the analogy to the flooded town is clearly made throughout the movie.
The whites eventually adopt the spiritism of the aborigines, but the heavy weight of depression is never lifted and the murderer is never caught. He just lurks around in the background.
The camerawork in JINDABYNE is beautiful. The aboriginal music is haunting. The acting is commendable. The problem is the plot. The studio representative told the reviewers that it was a long movie. What she didn’t say is that it was made longer by the static dialogue and extended scenes. Clearly, the filmmaker, Ray Lawrence, wanted to show how zombie-like these people were. He did that so well that there is not one character the audience can like. Everyone is unbearable.
This may appeal to intellectuals at effete film schools, but it is hard to believe that audiences will want to see this movie. My co-reviewer wanted to walk out in the middle when some other reviewers did walk out. It is rare when reviewers walk out of movies. I have only seen it a couple of times. But, we stayed to the end and found out that the depression was multiplied by the fact that justice was never served.