Interview with Gabriel Byrne

What is ďJindabyneĒ about?

The story is about four men who come upon the body of a woman in the river and, not out of any sense of badness or lack of feeling, decide to leave the body in the river and not report it to the police until they get back from their fishing trip. Like many situations that we find ourselves in, in life, weíre unaware of the consequences of our actions until those consequences come home to visit us in all kinds of unexpected ways. So the film is really about how this incident haunts these men and the lives of the people who are closest to them.

Tell us about Stewart, the character you play.

Stewart is a working-class, ordinary man who owns a garage. He used to be a rally driver and he has given up that life to become settled in this community. Not a simple man, but a man who lives a pretty simple predictable life up until this moment. As a result of this incident heís forced to examine who he really is morally, emotionally, and socially. Stewart and Claire have had their troubles like any couple in a long- term relationship. They love each other but as a result of this incident theyíre forced to examine not just who they are individually but who they are as a couple.

What was it that made you want to do this film?

I met Ray Lawrence in New York. When we met he talked about how he saw the film as a ghost story, the idea that this incident thatís taken place haunted the lives not just of the men who it happened to, but all the people on the periphery by implication. It sounded intriguing. Iíd seen ďLantanaĒ and I knew that he would make something really interesting. This is a film that makes you think about your life. I remember Ray saying to me, ĎI think you should do this film. It would be really nice if you came to Australia and did it. It would be a work experience but I think it would be an important spiritual experience for you.í That is what stuck with me. Nobody has ever said that to me before as a reason to do a film.

What has it been like working with Ray Lawrence and his one-take process?

This is the least conventional film I think I have ever done and it is letting go of all the things that you can usually rely on. The whole thing is about letting go. Itís a scary sort of process for most actors. All the things that actors like to depend on, like make-up and lighting and so forth, the security and comfort of eight or ten takes, thatís all gone. Every actor is different. Some actors get it on the first take, others, you know, are just warming up after take five or six or ten maybe, but you donít have that security. It allows you an incredible freedom and, ultimately, itís your responsibility. You can always ask for another take. Ray doesnít give much direction. He doesnít even say action. Iíve never worked with a director who never said action before, and he usually talks about the scene after itís over. So, yes, itís scary. Ray will say heís not directing the film, that heís trying to contain whatís happened, but I think that everything, everything, in a way, comes from his vision. Ray thinks unlike any other director Iíve ever worked with, he shoots like no director Iíve ever worked with and his vision is unique to him.

Does this affect the way you approach your character?

In a more conventional approach to making a film, it is like climbing a rock, you have more places to grab hold of. Here you donít seem to have any places to grab hold of. I think that the closer I moved to thinking about the character as myself, the more sure the journey felt. When Stewart and his friends commit this transgression they donít even know they are doing it. They do this thing, they actually think they are doing something right, by tying up the body and leaving it in the water, but it is after they get back they realise what they have done. That has happened to me in my life. I have done something and didnít think about the consequences of it and sometime later I realise, how could I have done that? What did I do? It is something you never forget.

What do you think people will take from this story?

Everybody, I think, comes to a different conclusion. It brings up all kinds of questions about morality and, in Stewartís case, his marriage, and what is responsible behaviour. Guilt, regret, community, ritual, marriage, sex, love, friendship between men, friendship between women, all those issues to a greater or lesser extent are raised. The audienceís reaction to it will be complex. On the one hand you have people who will disagree with the actions of the men. On the other, people will understand it. Hopefully people will identify with the reality of the dilemma that these people are forced to confront.

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