20 May 2008

How the fishing bit in Jindabyne is like reading, and liking, Hemingway nowadays

In Jindabyne’s film-telling of Raymond Carver’s So Much Water So Close to Home there is group of chaps who go on a fishing trip. Up into the Australian outback/ hills (the two apparently can be mutual, the film teaches us). The terrain’s inauspicious conglom of gradient, heat and scrubbiness means the chaps have to trek, really really trek, to get to this place which is away, a long way away, from their normal lives and the eponymous town: it is a pilgrimage to Away, and it is bi-annual.

(“Can we not make ceremony of usefulness?” said Ali Smith. Do we not more often make use of quite arbitrary ceremony?)

Up and away they go a bit chubby and not really hardy enough for the ascent, but make it they do and there are suitably manly grunts of appreciation - gor Jeezus drongo we made it - to have got to this isolated, high up, far away creek where the fish are all they want. The sun pours on their shoulders and the banks. All states and all princes we.

What do they find?

What do they find?

Only a bleeding dead body!

In the bleeding creek!


(More bloated than bleeding, really; day-old, snagged in the water, dark-skinned, female. Dark-skinned - darker than it looks from the picture above. Female.)

What do they do?

They register this shocking thing. They are shocked. One pukes. Another shrieks. Fairly hardy, normal outback-town guys, but the fact of death hits them.

And what do they do?

Nothing. Look at each other. Show their stunnedness. Nothing. Show their disbelief. To have come all this way?... For her to have come all this way?...

What can they do?

They decide to go fishing.

They fish.


And it is beautiful. The sequence of shots goes suddenly impressionistic -- the sun on the water -- their figures stood rippling the creek -- the lines of their fishing rods lovely, slow motion shapes -- the cliffs vertiginous -- the music plaintive & healing.

What should they have done?

What does the local media think they should have done when they get back down to civilization and hear that this bunch of white guys just went fishing having found the dead, raped body of a local girl, one of the original community which was already divided from and at odds with the Gabriel Byrnes and Laura Linneys there….

(Whence the brilliant, creeping dramatic menace of the film.)

To be affected by the fishing sequence, it seems to me, and the implication, the accusation, the taking part in their ignorant sport, their active ignore-ance of the World, strikes me as similar to enjoying some of the work of Ernest Hemingway today.

Macho cunt.

Boxer man.

Too big ego.

Stupid beard and always puffing up his chest, even when the world-at-large, the educated, was and were coming to terms with the necessity of integrating anima and animus, not blanking one by the other.

The machismo many find in Hemingway and his literary descendants, “who try to elevate their macho posturings into mythic endeavors [sic]”, is a version of the generality’s aversion in Jindabyne to the group’s ‘inadequate’ response.

“he pushed his legs out deep as they would go in the robe [and] slipped down steeply into sleep” (For Whom the Bell Tolls p.79).


The lie of the inadequacy of a male response to worldly phenoms is given by the visceral nature of our response to an art based in physical or uncultured understanding.

Leave it be.

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