There were four different endings contemplated for The Well,
and three were discarded because "one was highly
melodramatic but a bit tricksy, another version was too
sentimental and a bit dull, and a third was too dark and also a
bit tricksy," says director Samantha Lang, who makes her
feature film directing debut with this muted, unusual
"The need for love can
Samantha Lang on The Well
The film was invited to Official Competition at Cannes 1997,
which was nerve-racking for Lang, but also highly valuable.
"It means I can work with more confidence, and it opens
doors," she says.
The Well is about "how the need for love can corrupt
you," says Lang. "We wanted the structure to be like a
string which we tie in a know, and the ending unties it. I feel
this is a story you need to see - the meaning is infused through
the whole film, so itís not very American and doesnít
have a three act structure."
Indeed, when Lang finished the assembly, she rang producer
Sandra Levy "and I told her this is a very odd film -
itís ambiguous, mysterious, as well as a psychological
"The Well is about two
very different women at different ages and with seemingly
nothing in common"
Adapted from Elizabeth Jollyís novel by Laura Jones, The
Well is about two very different women at different ages and with
seemingly nothing in common. They meet by chance and initially
thrive on their new friendship, but as time passes, each
discovers that appearances can be deceptive. An accident with
serious consequences seals their fate.
Like Lang, Levy was fascinated by the notion "that a
great hunger for love can turn bad when it becomes corrupted by
greed and possession."
Miranda Otto stars as Katherine, the young, sensuous girl who
is taken into Hesterís (Pamela Rabe) home to help around the
"I think they wanted
young blood" Samantha
Lang on directing The Well
"We werenít absolutely faithful to the book,"
says Lang, who was invited to direct the adaptation by producer
Sandra Levy. "I think they wanted young blood, says Lang,
who at 29 is just 18 months out of the Australian Film Television
and Radio School. She subsequently read the book "but it was
the script that formed the way we made the film. It had a rich
visual language and the relationship between the two women was
something I felt I could work with. Every time I read it I felt
an impulse to explore, and I got more and more clues how to
construct the film.
"I particularly wanted
to make a film with images that describe the way you
"I liked the idea of impossible love," says Lang.
"And itís not about sex. I found it deeply moving and I
was drawn to the subtleties. I always cull from different parts
of film culture, but I particularly wanted to make a film with
images that describe the way you feel - images that convey
subtext, using the camera to add extra meaning Ö creating
atmosphere. I wasnít going for naturalism but I was trying
to find a reality for the characters, and wanted the locations to
mirror Hesterís strange character."
The dry blue-grey bush of the Sydney set and the eerie, gothic
landscape of the high country provide a backdrop that serve to
make the characters stand out in stark relief.
Laura Jonesí script, says Lang, has a very rich visual
language and the relationship between the two women was something
I felt I could work with . . . the older woman, her repressed
sexuality, and the younger girl who was always dancing and the
older womanís response to that in that she had never used
her body Ö"
To Lang, it was a leap of faith by Levy and writer Laura Jones
to ask her, "a newcomer," to direct the film. She
hardly ever refers to the film making process in the first person
singular: itís always "we", and this is echoed in
her directorís notes, in which she refers to having got
through "a tough and emotionally charged shoot" with
the help of "a team who have as much passion for telling the
story as you do."
Langís debut feature follows several short films, both as
writer/director and producer/director, including her much
applauded 26 minute drama, Audacious (1995), starring Dee Smart,
John Polson and Aden Young, winner (among other prizes) of the
Dendy Short Fiction Award.
Langís next project is another adaptation, this of
Dorothy Porterís novel, The Monkeyís Mask, to be
produced by Bridgit Ikin.