Ondine (2009): Valid Lit

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“Ondine” took me by surprise. I was at first skeptical because it is billed as an Irish Drama and they are often hard to stomach for someone with the Irish blood and blarney running through their own veins. So, I let it play on while only giving it half my attention.

The free running of alcohol and recovery from it, broken families and life-long feuds, poverty, fishing folk, the corrupt Catholic Church and the strangle hold it has on people that have a tendency to be wild…… and other hallmarks…… were expected.

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But then, I realized that the dour fisherman with the thick almost unintelligible Irish brogue was Collin Farrell of sleek Hollywood and the darker-than-black features. His hair was long trailing well-beneath his wooly cap and he was racing round the inlets in a dilapidated trawler instead of a limousine. This realization combined with the above shot really caught my interest so I quickly became transported by this Celtic fantasy.

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Of course, this is a love story as well – between Syracuse (an approximation of ‘circus’ because of his alcoholic antics) and Ondine (a borrowed name form the French). The connection between them apart from him fishing her out of the cold ocean and secreting her away in his abandoned family home, is Annie, his precocious, invalid daughter. She happens to be an expert on selkies, mythological creatures common in northern Europe who are a hybrid of seal crossed with human, and immediately recognizes Ondine as such a hybrid.

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Selkies (Maidens of the Sea) are indeed fascinating, standard fairy-tale creatures in Finland, Iceland and among Inuits: an institution also in northern Scotland, Ireland and the Faroe Islands. The selkie lives as a seal, among seals, but is known to shed its heavy pelt in order to become a land creature. When psychological conditions were not recognized then ‘the fairies’ were often held responsible for this kind of mischief.

In freezing climes peoples often wear seal skins from head to toe, and cover their kayaks with them. When they get heavy with water they have to be laid out in the sun to dry. It is thought that this ‘myth’ may have come from the sight of seal-skin wearers stripping off and lying beside their skins in the sunlight. It is also said that selkies are supernaturally formed from the souls of the drowned.

 

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Ondine’s arrival plays complete havoc with sober Syracuse’s faith and already damaged reputation. How can he confess that he’s falling for a mermaid and intending to consummate the relationship!

To be honest, I was completely taken in by Ondine’s aqueous origins especially when she accidentally discovers her pelt on the ocean bed and buries it in Syracuse’s garden to be dug up 7 years later. I found it completely acceptable that all the dresses Syracuse buys for her automatically become swimming suits.

 

 

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But reality slams into this sleepy fishing town of an interesting Romanian origin! The less said……….

Anyway, this tale is a delight. At once crude, basic, intoxicated and hard-faced, but magical and romantic as well. It has a happy, zany ending which the town will never recover from. Please watch it and see how far you can suspend disbelief.

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Images courtesy of ibdb.com and megapixyl.com

 

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