The Daughter

 

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A classic 19th century play is modernised in a catastrophic adaptation.

 

daughter, The

Filial failing: Odessa Young 

 

This film is a travesty. The great Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen wrote The Wild Duck in the 1880s and for the stage Simon Stone wrote his own version which, first presented in Australia, won awards in 2011. It is this treatment which Stone now brings to film as The Daughter and it has a distinguished cast including Geoffrey Rush, Miranda Otto and Sam Neill in addition to introducing Odessa Young in the key role of Hedvig to whom the new title refers.

In the theatre it is not unusual for directors to update classics to contemporary times although the results are often criticised. But what makes the acclaim for Stone’s stage piece so extraordinary in my eyes is less the time switch adopted than the fact that he has ripped the heart out of Ibsen’s masterpiece. The original centres on the concept of an idealist wreaking havoc in the lives of others by following through his belief that the truth must always be faced and never concealed. That is the raison d’être of The Wild Duck but, in cutting down a long work to 96 minutes, Stone virtually jettisons it. Thus he retains the gradual revelations which can seem melodramatic but throws away the philosophical crux of the work, while also sidestepping the ironical tragedy with which Ibsen concluded the play (here we have something of an open ending).

The cast do what they can and anyone with no knowledge of the original has the advantage of not knowing what they are missing. However, the modernisation converts Hedvig from innocent victim into a sexually knowing modern teenager and thus reduces the pathos of her situation. It also fails to make us care about the other characters with the men largely unsympathetic and the other women merely unlucky. This is, alas, a perfect example of retaining the bathwater but throwing out the baby. For the record, I should add that in 1976 the German director Hans W. Geissendörfer filmed the work admirably in traditional style with a cast that included Bruno Ganz and Jean Seberg. That film, too little known, was called The Wild Duck and that was what it was, a proper film version of what Ibsen intended. Stone has called his version a reinterpretation, but actually it’s a banal reduction.

        

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Ewen Leslie, Paul Schneider, Miranda Otto, Anna Torv, Odessa Young, Sam Neill.


Dir Simon Stone, Pro Jan Chapman and Nicole O’Donohue, Screenplay (inspired by his stage play with Chris Ryan after Henrik Ibsen) Simon Stone, Ph Andrew Commis, Pro Des Steven Jones-Evans, Ed Veronika Jenet, Music Mark Bradshaw, Costumes Margot Wilson.


Screen Australia/a Jan Chapman Films & Wildflower Films production etc.-Metrodome Distribution Ltd.
95 mins. Australia. 2015. Rel: 27 May 2016. Cert. 
15.