Thursday, September 16, 2010

ONDINE: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda, Dervla Kirwan, Stephen Rea
Director: Neil Jordan
Runtime: 103 min.
Verdict: A rather lovely film.
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance

        A woman emerging out of the water is an image that is much more than curves and assets and boners. Yes, such a moment is how much of cinema tries to achieve the many benefits of porn. I don’t know, but my childhood journeys through our mythological stories served me images that had a lot more going for them on a lot of fronts than the blandness of the Ursula Andress one. Excuse me my wordplay, but I don’t get how the cinematic form comes into picture here, or rather is anymore than a picture here. I mean, if the ultimate intent is to cause a boner there are a million ways to have one, and water dripping from the glistening body is probably the least memorable and least effective of it. Such a sight only trivializes the pretty lass, makes her just an empty nothing, and ultimately reveals the cause why modern porn is so ineffective. The fantasy is just not there to begin with. And that is a cause for concern, you see, considering that the medium here is fantasy itself. Movies can go beyond mere display of images, images that may only cause a mere visual response. Movies can create these fantasies, and memories, and often movies can cause to plant memories that didn’t even exist in the first place, and thus perpetuate these fantasies. In a bikini, where the bikini and the non-bikini is the only objective, a terrible opportunity is lost, and movies are reduced to images.
        I think there must be something beautiful, something divine, something poetic about a feminine figure gracefully emerging out of the water, something that, it ought to be said, causes a boner that is memorable. Mr. Christopher Doyle (Paranoid Park, Lady in the Water, In the Mood for Love) and Mr. Jordan create an image that is so strikingly composed and captured that it brings to mind the wizardry of the window perspective trick in Citizen Kane. Ondine (Ms. Bachleda) is neck deep in water when she is confronted by Syracuse’s (Mr. Farrell) little daughter Annie (Ms. Kirwan). Annie knows Ondine is a sea nymph of some sort. Considering the manner in which movies generally compose such shots – tedium of close-ups and mediums with the background only to serve as nothing. In Dr. No the water behind only serves as a background, and Ursula Andress’ relative position and size hardly is of any concern. It is just a whole lot of sea. But here, we are first served a medium shot. And then, with Annie’s silhouette in the foreground covering a part of the frame to the right, we’re served a long shot, as Ondine gradually emerges (not walks out) out of the water. Her arms do not move at all. Her body is as much the object in the frame, as the rocks to the left of the frame, as are the strange patterns of the ripples in the water. It is quite breathtaking, as her body gradually attains a size sizable in relation to the background, as she gradually grows larger, and there is something divine almost fantastical about that shot. As her complete figure stands on the land, suddenly bathed in a soft diffused glow of sunlight, the surrounding landscape seems strangely small, which hitherto felt much larger in size and scope. There’s nothing tangible in the shot I can hold on to, to claim quantitatively how the feel and effect is created, and such is the magic we often come across at the movies. I was in love with Ondine right there. The film is a joy to behold, if for nothing else, then this divine moment alone.
        A great aspect of this shot, as any good shot, is that it so beautifully captures the themes and the psychology at the heart of the film. What is Ondine about but a sort of deconstruction of the male version of the desire that drives the Twilight saga fantasy. Syracuse is almost the village idiot, though it is a little stretch to imagine Mr. Farrell as one. His daughter Annie is sick, and is bound to a wheelchair, and does not live him. She lives with her mother, an alcoholic herself, who is married to a Scottish guy she fell in love with during Syracuse long forays into the sea looking for fishes, and she has the custody of their daughter only because of Irish laws. Syracuse is the one who takes her to the hospital for treatments, and he always confesses to her his wish of something strange and wonderful to happening in his life. In their life probably. You know, he is wishing for a deus ex machina, and he gets one in the form of Ondine. A beautiful woman, one who likes him very much, and more importantly one who brings him luck. I mean real luck. He nets squids and salmonds when the surrounding waters are not known to offer those varieties of sea-food.
        Later on, she resolves his more significant problem too, and in a manner so convenient that it is so blatantly honest and might even seem offensive. It involves a matter of death, where the little party-pooper is plucked right out, courtesy an accident. Somebody’s fantasy is somebody’s nightmare. Maybe, the fantasy you desire for might not be the fantasy you get, but what you get might be a fantasy nonetheless. The little Irish town is a quite little place, probably even banal, and Ondine’s arrival quietly changes the equation for Syracuse. There’s remarkable performances from the three actors, especially from Ms. Kirwan, who superbly tightropes the character of a smart little girl. We all know how annoying one of those can be, especially in the wake of one Ms. Dakota Fanning. Mr. Jordan has always been generous with his actors, and the soft play between Mr. Farrell and Ms. Bachleda is so subtly romantic, and dare I say sweet. Ondine is a sweet film, though there are elements that question the general sweetness of fables and fantasies. And when Ondine walks out of the water, it has got to be one of the movie moments of this decade.

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