The Well

Director: Samantha Lang
Screenwriters: Laura Jones

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


The Well is a bold, psychological drama by Australian newcomer Samantha Lang. Delving into the world of madness, the film’s imagery is breathtaking. From the day she brings Katherine home to the isolated farm where she lives alone with her difficult, ailing father, Hester’s life is changed. Hired as a maid, Katherine is disenfranchised by the amount of hard work expected of her. The repressed, matronly Hester forms an immediate attachment to the free-spirited, younger woman. Hester promises to alleviate some of Katherine’s duties, which persuades her to stay. Hester’s father soon dies, and she takes control of the family property and money, which the two women spend greedily. To continue an income source, Hester sells the farm, retaining a small cottage on the property where they can reside. With no monetary worries, the two women enjoy their new freedom and one another’s company for a brief but idyllic time. However, late one evening when Hester hits something or someone with her car, their fragile existence is shattered.

In images of striking starkness, the heavy, psychosexual tensions within the women’s relationship penetrate the environment. Miranda Otto (from last year’s Love Serenade) and Pamela Rabe, two of Australia’s premiere actresses, give standout performances in this almost exclusively woman-made production. Shot against the eerie isolation of the rural Australian landscape and infused with a disturbing undercurrent of lunacy, The Well is an extraordinary debut feature. Lang is welcome to take her place beside her successful Australian counterparts.

Samantha Lang, Director
Born in 1967 in Australia, Samantha Lang focused her interest on photography until 1989, when a scholarship to Germany gave her the opportunity to study at the Prague Film School. Returning to Sydney, Samantha wrote, produced, and directed the short film Malady, which gained her acceptance into the Australian Film, Television, and Radio School. Her short drama Audacious won the 1995 Dendy Award for Short Fiction at the Sydney Film Festival and screened at many other festivals. The Well is Lang’s first feature film.

— Lisa Viola

Screening Details

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