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:: Watermark

Watermark attracted attention when it was selected for the Directors’ Fortnight at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It’s the first feature for writer and co-scriptwriter Georgina Willis who, with producer and co-scriptwriter Kerry Rock, has self-released the film in Australia.

Watermark follows Jim (Jai Koutrae) and his relationship with two different women in two different eras: the 1970s and now. Much of the film is silent and explores the relationships the three have with water and each other.

Georgina Willis’ background is in visual arts, which goes towards explaining her prodigious talent at visual storytelling. Shots are framed from interesting angles (stairwells for example), giving the audience voyeuristic insight into the characters. And the dreamlike infusion of water, the beach and sea into the story adds sensuality and a mythical quality to the film. It also emphasises Watermark’s ‘Australianness’ without jingoism.
Although not a conventional thriller, there’s a twist towards the end of the film, which is built upon by Allyson Newman’s suspenseful soundtrack. While occasionally intrusive, the music is also appropriate and reflects elemental influences – water and the unconscious mind.

It’s a shame, then, that when the actors speak, they destroy the mood Willis has worked so hard to create. With the exception of some of the 1970s sequences, the cast manage to be simultaneously flat, hysterical and unconvincing in conversation – whereas, when silent, their performances are profound. It’s not their fault – Willis needs to manage her actors better. Thankfully, the most irritating scenes appear early in the film, so that the last half can wash over you.