Ondine (2009)

ondine-affiche1There seems to be something like a consensus among the “haters” of this film. Almost all of them whine about harsh reality coming into play in third act which, supposedly, breaks the carefully crafted illusion which was in play for the first two parts of the movie. Up to a certain point, they say, Neil Jordan’s movie behaves like something out of magical realist handbook (with Ireland in the focus instead of Latin America). Transition from one universe to another is far from smooth and more than anything else it looks like it has been done half-heartedly, without any semblance of sensible motivation other than “fuck you”. The haters are, for the most part, correct in their assessment of this movie. I would add only one thing. Most of them praise Colin Farrell though his performance is hardly worth of note, let alone praise. You can smell sweet odor of crack floating around those who think that just because Farrell plays himself (recovering, fallen alcoholic) that he should be awarded special mention. This movie required serious acting and Farrell is, well, far from the concept of a serious actor.

vlcsnap-2014-07-20-02h24m33s198     Somehow, without an apparent reason, everything falls apart in this movie. We are, once again, introduced to Ireland. This time it’s shown to us as a place that borders between the reality of poor fishermen and fantasy of magical sea-creatures in search for husbands. Since the whole affair is enveloped within this mythical, ethereal, world it stands to reason that it should be shown to us in a weird light with greenish hue. It’s a borderline fantasy and Ireland is a green country or haven’t you heard. Is there any other way to film this (shame you Christopher Doyle)? Anyhow, for the most part, Neil Jordan handles this dichotomy well. Ondine herself is as mysterious as they come, events are either coincidental or affirmative, every direct question is either avoided or answered in a way that doesn’t tell you anything. From the information we get, we can never be quite sure of the ontological status of events. As far as we can tell, Ondine is a mythical creature (this doesn’t change even when helicopters, Romanian drug mules, guns and drug packages come into play). We’re in no different position than Farrell’s character. Thing is, her ontological status doesn’t quite matter in the big picture. This is the main reason why the forced transition from fantasy to European reality met so many negative reviews (though this transition is far from definitive/final as “haters” want you to believe) – it doesn’t really change “what’s it all about” yet it introduces new elements which read as unnecessary, over-the-top, addition to the narrative.

vlcsnap-2014-07-20-02h24m41s29 This is a technical problem and I don’t care much for technical problems it the movie offers me something in return. Ondine tries, but ultimately it fails. When you come down to it it’s a tale about struggling alcoholic who is in need of some happiness. Yet another one of those. There is one reading I thought of, which might make this movie more interesting. As always, one has to access his metaphorical abilities. One can read Ondine as a tale of modern day Ireland. Focused not on people, but on society. If we read into Farrell and his family as a representatives of working class Irish families than we come up with something like this. Farrell and his families (Ireland) believe in fairy tales (nationalist myths, collective identities, tribal affirmations). These fairy tales cause both luck and disaster, depending on the uncontrollable whim of some higher force. True happiness (marriage and reconstitution of a family) comes from removing yourself from the dreamlike state of make believe and opening your eyes to the real world outside. World in which there are no mystical sea-creatures to help you out but Romanian drug lords are a-plenty. Together with illegal aliens, slaves, and all sort of depressing shit. That’s the world one can (and should) find happiness in (or the possibility of change) and that’s the world one should fight for. Maybe it looks like over interpretation but it’s the only way to save this movie from itself.

Directed by Neil Jordan
Produced by Ben Browning
James Flynn
Neil Jordan
Written by Neil Jordan
Starring Colin Farrell
Alicja Bachleda
Music by Kjartan Sveinsson
Cinematography Christopher Doyle
Edited by Tony Lawson
Production
company
Wayfare Entertainment
Little Wave
Octagon Films

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