“Ondine” (2009 production, 2010 release). Cast: Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda, Alison Barry, Stephen Rea, Dervla Kirwan, Tony Curran, Emil Hostina. Director: Neil Jordan. Screenplay: Neil Jordan. www.ondinefilm.com
Magic is something we all aspire to believe in, but often we dismiss it as an unrealistic flight of fancy, something into which we put little or no stock. But what if it were a capability that genuinely could be tapped into? That’s a possibility explored in the new cinematic fable, “Ondine.”
Struggling to get by is an everyday affair for Syracuse (Colin Farrell), a fisherman who trolls the Irish seacoast to eke out a living. The recovering alcoholic works hard to keep himself sober, support his loved ones and escape his past, despite the doubts of others who ubiquitously invoke the clownish nickname—“Circus”—he earned in the misspent, hard-drinking days of his youth. But that all changes one day when something unimaginable shows up in his net—a beautiful young woman (Alicja Bachleda).
Syracuse is initially shocked at the discovery, but his astonishment only grows stronger when he finds his unexpected catch is still alive. After a brief bout of amnesia, the young woman regains her memory, calling herself Ondine, “the woman from the sea” who’s the protagonist of an old French folk tale. Syracuse quietly ponders whether he’s heroically rescued a mortal in distress or unintentionally caught a modern-day mermaid, but he gradually comes to learn that he may have actually snared a selkie, a mythical, magical creature that assumes the form of a human on land and the form of a seal in water. He invites her to stay in his home while they each sort out what’s next, a tale that proves to be full of many intriguing twists and turns and a host of fortuitous synchronicities.
Ondine initially spends much of her time with Syracuse on his boat. While he works his nets, she sings a mysterious and lovely song, the means by which selkies supposedly communicate with other sea creatures. It’s also an act that appears to swell his daily catch by volumes. Syracuse begins to wonder, if Ondine can work this kind of magic, what else is she capable of? Perhaps she can even help his ailing daughter Annie (Alison Barry), who’s suffering from kidney failure and desperately in need of a transplant. And so, in true magical form, when Annie and Ondine meet, they quickly become fast friends. Ondine helps Annie cope with her condition, while Annie begins working some magic of her own as an aspiring matchmaker.
Before long, rumors begin to circulate about Syracuse’s “sea baby” and how she may in some way be responsible for his newfound good fortune. Some even suggest that it’s a form of ill-gotten gain, causing Syracuse to question his recent success. He even unwittingly engages in acts of self-sabotage, further fueling his feelings of being undeserving of such abundance. He consults the village priest (Stephen Rea) for advice, but he offers little in the way of meaningful guidance, often heaping even more criticism on his searching parishioner. All of which ultimately prompts Syracuse to realize that he alone must face his difficulties—and his successes—for himself, in all of their forms and no matter how trying or pleasant they might be, including some unexpected new challenges—and opportunities—that arise as his relationship with Ondine deepens.
So where is all this magic in Syracuse’s life coming from anyway? Is it divine intervention? Ondine’s powers at work, either at Syracuse’s behest or of her own volition? Or is it something else entirely?
Anyone who follows conscious creation/law of attraction principles knows that “magic” comes from within the one who practices it and that we’re each capable of working it as long as we believe in it. In fact, such magic is really not magic at all but the natural way the Universe works; it only seems like magic because so many of us have forgotten we possess the ability to engage in it for ourselves. That’s why we need reminders of this birthright, of our true selves as workers of miracles.
Plenty of reminders exist, too. For example, author and visionary Jane Roberts and her noncorporeal channeled entity Seth said that “Miracles are nature unimpeded.” Of course, as noted above, those who work such miracles must believe they’re capable of doing so in the first place, but there are plenty of reminders of that, too. In the Bible, for example, Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God [i.e., the realm of all potential] is within you.” Similarly, practitioners of the ancient art of alchemy, the method of transmuting base metals into gold, knew that such miraculous transformations were indeed possible, but only if they believed it and freely infused themselves into the conversion process. Even contemporary examples exist, such as Glinda’s guidance to Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” wherein the good witch tells the young farm girl that she’s “had the power all along” to achieve her goal of going home, an accomplishment symbolic of rediscovering the nature of her true self. This is also the lesson Syracuse must learn for himself, and we, as viewers, receive yet another reminder of that all-important message as we watch his story unfold.
“Ondine” is a charming picture, beautifully filmed and always engaging. Farrell is terrific as Syracuse, bringing a gritty realism to his character without becoming clichéd in the process. Some aspects of the story are a bit darker than one might expect from viewing its promotional trailer, and the sound quality is definitely lacking at times (especially with the thick brogues of the performers). But the story is a wonderful parable and an excellent exploration into the nature of magic and the essence of our true being. See it, and you, too, just might become a believer.
Copyright © 2010, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.