Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Well

This Samantha Lang 1997 movie is like two movies in one, the first half is an interesting study of contrasting characters of two lonely women that leads to a very predictable end. The second half is unbearable tense as the director induces panic suggesting rather than showing and you don’t know what is going on, if something is happening at all. All this after you believe you know what exactly is going on and will happen from what you saw in the first half and without you really noticing all your cards castle just fall into shambles… until the end when you realize that everything you thought it was going to happen, happens! But it is too late as you’re already confused/lost and highly enjoyed the experience, so who cares if you’re right; the ride is what it counted. See this is not a “who done it” film, this is “what is going on” kind of movie. Fabulous!!

The story based on Elizabeth Jolley novel of the same name tells about Hester (Pamela Rabe) a middle-aged and sexually frustrated woman that hires a free-spirit young woman, Katherine (a very young Miranda Otto) as a housemaid. But when Katherine finds the work too hard and decides to leave, Hester makes her comeback by changing the rules of the living hood and bringing back the old maid. What follows next is clearly Katherine manipulating Hester and Hester having the time of her life especially after her father’s death. The movie opens with a scene that suggests that Katherine hit something while driving and goes back to tell what I mention above. But as soon as the story reaches the point of the opening scene, the story and the movie totally changes and you have to see what follows as surely will blow your mind.

Performances are extraordinary especially Pamela Rabe so it’s no surprise to find that she won the Best Actress award at the 1997 Australia Film Institute Awards and the 1997 Stockholm film festival. But Miranda Otto also has a remarkable performance. As a movie has great cinematography, good slowish pace and a director that suggests has mathematical precision to bring a great puzzle to the screen and is incredible that this movie was her debut feature, as definitively looks and feels like the work of an accomplished director. Bravo! The movie was screened in competition for a Golden Palm at the 1997 Cannes.

The movie has been called “beautifully creepy” and trust me both words perfectly fit exactly what I saw in the screen. I have to reproduce the words of a critic that exactly describe what I feel about this movie.

“…you feel you've awakened into someone else's nightmare, and you emerge from it clammy with a dread you don't quite understand. See it with someone you trust. Or better, see it alone, since afterward you won't be able to trust anything, least of all your own perceptions.”

Last but not least, the movie has strong lesbian undertones but as you can imagine this will not be a happy or nice to watch relationship between Hester and Katherine; still, because the movie is so good, I’ll give the label to perhaps motivate those that enjoy the lesbian interest genre to give the movie and story a try.


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