Take a short story from the USA and convert it to Aussie cinema and something like Jindabyne appears. Raymond Carver’s So Much Water So Close To Home underwent some changes to become Ray Lawrence’s dramatic depiction of a community’s response to the thoughtless and apathetic actions of four fishing mates who discover a corpse in the isolated Snowy Mountain region. The men continue their fishing adventure and do not report their find until they return three days later. What seemed a pragmatic solution at the time is now, in the cold light of day, shown up as an act of high grade callousness.
It puts strains on family relationships and turns the men into small town pariahs. The fact that the victim is a young aboriginal woman brings racial tension to the surface. For me, Jindabyne is something of a social commentary on a variety of levels. Apathy is a kind of default position that many of us revert to in daily life. It is a condition that dogs even our best re-creative moments, dulling our thinking. Or was it the surreal, beautiful yet ominous, natural environment of the high country that anaesthetized the senses? I have spent time in the high country myself, and experiences of foreboding are frequently palpable there. The strain on intimate relationships resulting from ethically questionable decisions that have come under public scrutiny is a study in itself. Mixed in is the conflict between passive aggressive resentment and the drive to inappropriate expressions of vicarious guilt assuagement. Throw in the element of racial insensitivity with its hint to the audience that the matter of aboriginal reconciliation will not go away, and we have powerful cinema that will leave you touched by sadness, despair and anger. Yet there are signs of hope also, a reaching out, the courage to make apologies knowing they may not be accepted, but making them anyway because they are necessary for healing to begin. There are tender moments here, flickers of light that deserve to be noticed in the darkness of it all. Some will find the film slow moving, I found it contemplative.