Jim (Jai Koutrae) and Catherine (Ruth McDonald) were happy lovers, until a tragic incident changed their lives. Jim can't escape the memories, even though he now has Louise (Sandra Stockley) and his daughter Jasmin (Ellouise Rothwell). Louise feels locked out of his life, and Jim feels trapped; some things he just can't explain.
Review by Andrew L. Urban
An unconventional film, verging on the experimental, Watermark uses imagery, sound, music and narration in addition to sparse dialogue to communicate with the audience more viscerally, more ethereally than directly. The emphasis on these tools tends to distance us from the characters, and the usual insights - via the eyes and close ups on facial expressions of emotion or thought - are not generally available. Narration and acting are often stylised (some would say stilted) as are the assertive piano chords (or its equivalent) pounding our consciousness.
It's quite clear that director Georgina Willis is first and foremost an image-driven filmmaker; she's most confident with what is shown as distinct from what is spoken. Her sense cinema - of texture and composition, camera angles and in-frame action - dominates the film.
Eschewing a narrative arc, Willis uses time shifts to underline the power of memory, especially when love and trauma are involved, but the side effect is loss of clarity. Nor can we quite connect with the meaning of many of the (visually pleasing) images that are collected here. The film plays like a troubled, poetic essay, tinged with a bleak, sad, mournful mood.
Watermark, titled to refer us to the near-invisible stamp on quality paper as a symbol of what happens to our souls once it has been emotionally imprinted, is a brave experiment that is perhaps best seen as a work in progress.
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CAST: Jai Koutrae, Sandra Stockley, Ruth McDonald, Ellouise Rothwell
PRODUCER: Kerry Rock
DIRECTOR: Georgina Willis
SCRIPT: Georgina Willis
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Paul Kolsky (& David Perry)
EDITOR: Georgina Willis
MUSIC: Allyson Newman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Georgina Willis
RUNNING TIME: 76 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potaroo Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne: September 16, 2004; Sydney: October 7, 2004