Monday, 3 October 2016

MOVIE MONDAY - THE DAUGHTER

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” - Virginia Woolf

We watched Simon Stone’s 2015 movie “The Daughter” at the weekend. It starred Sam Neill, Miranda Otto, Geoffrey Rush, Paul Schneider, Odessa Young and Ewen Leslie, with a story based on Ibsen’s “The Wild Duck”, adapted by the director, Simon Stone. The story is updated to modern-day Australia and there are some quite fundamental changes to the plot, including (possibly) the ending.

The film is set in Tasmania although it was filmed around the very atmospheric Snowy Mountain towns of Tumut and Batlow. A timber mill belonging to a wealthy landowner closes the greatly dismayed workers are sacked while the aloof owner Henry (Rush) plans to marry his much younger former housekeeper. His estranged son Christian (Schneider) returns for the wedding looking for someone to blame for his mother’s suicide. When Christian learns of his father’s previous infidelity he feels compelled to reveal all to his childhood friend Oliver (Leslie) that his wife Charlotte (Otto) had an affair with his father. Oliver is devastated his up till then excellent relationship with his daughter Hedvig (Young) is affected. The thoughtless and irresponsible revelation of the truth by Christian (whose own life is immersed in lies) leads to a tragic consequences that will affect everyone’s lives.

The movie is well made, the acting is excellent and the cinematography wonderful. Geoffrey Rush has a relatively small role and I found Sam Neill’s acting much more commanding and masterful. The real honours are deserved by Odessa Young, playing the daughter of the title and also an excellent presence by Ewen Leslie. Paul Schneider’s character was a real stinker and I found that he suited the role as he was quite an unlikeable actor (or maybe it was the role?). The music by Mark Bradshaw was suitably atmospheric and appropriate, while the cinematography by Andrew Commis suited the plot well.

Ibsen can be quite heavy and his ponderous plays are often depressing and hard to digest. Although this movie was hardly a laugh a minute, there was the odd scene where the mood was lightened without detracting from the melancholy and dramatic story. We found ourselves involved in the action and we felt the pain of the characters’ plight. The claustrophobic family situations and the hidden truths that are slowly and recklessly revealed create a great tension and lead well to the film’s dramatic conclusion. As far as the actual ending is concerned, there is ambiguity and the viewer may opt for Ibsen’s tragic conclusion or a more optimistic and happier one…

A wonderful Australian film with a great bunch of actors, good pace and plot and enjoyable (although uncomfortable at times) to watch. Not one for you if you like fast-paced action thrillers and adventure stories. This is quiet and melancholy, exploring people’s feelings and their damaged psyches.

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