Thursday, August 2, 2012

Movie Review: Ondine

The Irish film Ondine invokes two similar mythological sea creatures: the titular undine (a water sprite or nymph which sings beautifully and which can only gain a soul if she marries a man and bears him a child [1]) and the Irish selkie (a seal turned human who must remain on land if their lover finds and hides their shed skin [2]). The film opens with a down-on-his-luck fisherman, Syracuse, finding a woman in his nets. She gives her name as Ondine. Her name and her subsequent strange behavior leads Syracuse to suspect (and his daughter, Annie, to accept) that she is a selkie.

My verdict: The acting is excellent, including Colin Farrell's. The filmmakers do a good job of keeping you guessing whether or not Ondine is a normal woman or a selkie. And when you finally find out which it is, they do a pretty good job of getting everything to make sense.[3] The movie has a magical quality to it (partly due to some magnificent photography of the Irish seaboard) up until the last ten minutes or so. The camerawork degrades at this point and the ending is kind of rushed. Other than that (and some profanity), I don't have any complaints.


[1] In some versions of the legend this also costs her her immortality. See (alchemy).

[2] See

[3] There is a word she says in Romanian (pește) which has two meanings. The first is "fish" and the second would be a spoiler, so I'm not telling.

Image attributions:

Ondine Lost to Sight in the Danube is by Arthur Rackham and is in the public domain. It is available at Rackham 1909 Undine (14 of 15).jpg.

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