Sirens is a 1994 film, based on the real life artist Norman Lindsay, written and directed by John Duigan and set in Australia during the interwar period.
Tony, an Anglican priest newly arrived in Australia from the United Kingdom, is asked to visit the notorious artist Norman Lindsay, out of the church’s concern about a blasphemous painting of the crucifix that the artist plans to exhibit.
Estella, the priest’s wife, accompanies him on the visit to the artist’s bucolic compound in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. There, they meet Lindsay’s wife, Rose (Pamela Rabe), two models, and the maid, all of whom pose for Lindsay. Devlin, the half-blind “odd-job” man, also poses for Lindsay.
Initially, Tony and Estella are both disturbed by the frank conversations about human sexuality in which the members of the bohemian group all participate. They are further startled by the amount of nudity they encounter, both in the studio and outside. As the story unfolds, both Tony and Estella find themselves observing the young women bathing naked in a nearby pool and instead of turning instantly away, each pauses to watch, betraying an underlying sensual interest in the lifestyle they outwardly deplore.
Joining the models to swim one morning, Estella is shocked when they bathe naked (she and the maid have come in swimming costumes). Estella is further shocked when Devlin arrives on the scene and the naked women flirt with him, knowing that he cannot see them. On a later occasion, Estella observes the two models caressing the maid, and joins them in stroking her. She doesn’t realize that her husband, walking nearby, observes this and is disturbed by the scene’s sexual content. At another time, Estella observes Devlin sunbathing naked, and flees when she realises he knows she is there.
Estella is increasingly affected by the sensuality of her surroundings and the bohemian attitude towards sexuality. Her relationship with her husband includes intimacy and commitment, but lacks passion.
The surroundings and the lives of the models are siren calls that lead Estella to fantasize with increasing intensity, and (with encouragement from the models) act on a few of her impulses. She suffers morning-after remorse about a late-night visit to Devlin. Influenced by supportive words from her husband, who had witnessed her earlier intimacy with the models, Estella shares a passionate moment with her husband.
While Tony is outraged to discover his wife’s naked likeness included in one of Lindsay’s paintings of a group of naked women, Estella merely observes that it is a good likeness, thus deflating her husband’s moral outrage and threats to sue. The next day Tony and Estella leave the bucolic compound. They travel back home on a train in a shared suite and, showing a changed attitude, Estella caresses Tony with her stocking covered foot.