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Curiouser and curiouser: "Ondine"

September 15, 2009 |  2:07 pm

OndineStory Monday afternoon saw the world premiere of Neil Jordan's "Ondine." Taking the stage at the Winter Garden Theater before a crowd that included Bono and The Edge from U2 and directors Jim Sheridan and Terry Gilliam, Jordan introduced the film by saying, "It's a strange time in the film industry, because nobody has seen this movie. And I think there's a lot of movies in Toronto at the moment that people haven't seen before they're shown here because of the strange distribution situation. Anyway, for me it's great but bear with me, as you're the first audience I've sat among."

Continuing, Jordan added, "I wrote this film about a year and a half ago. In Hollywood the writers strike happened and I went back to Ireland and just wrote something to cheer myself up."

Taking to the stage as well, actor Colin Farrell said, "Neil covered it all. Nobody's seen it, including me-self. So if you hear someone scream, it's probably me."

There were no screams, but perhaps a few tears as the film played out. As the film opens a fisherman (Farrell) pulls up his nets to find a young woman inside. Goaded on partly by his ill daughter -- she slyly notes "curiouser and curiouser" as things become perhaps more clear -- the fisherman comes to believe that the woman is a mythic creature from the sea, and that she may be there for some larger purpose. A quietly touching take on mythmaking, fantasy and the grounding realities of life, "Ondine" is hard to deny in its simple direct. Farrell, who also has the film "Triage" showing here at the festival, gives another of the gentle, understatedly anguished performances that have recently made him more of a blossoming actor than just a square-jawed leading man.

After the screening, Jordan noted that Alicja Bachleda, the actress who plays the "water baby," as she is called in the film, "couldn't be here with us tonight for reasons I can't fully understand."

Farrell put on a veritable clinic in star-power charisma, charming the audience. When a female audience member commented that Farrell had "touched my heart" he immediately responded, "It was dark and I only meant to brush by you."

Tuesday afternoon I was the only U.S. print outlet to speak to Farrell about the film. Look for the result of our conversation later in the week.

-- Mark Olsen

Photo: Colin Farrell and Neil Jordan at the Toronto International Film Festival
Credit: Getty Images