Friday, January 3, 2014


Irish Film

Image and dialogue are mainly functional categories in film. Useful in direction and production though far less so in screen writing. In other words a film or a play are experienced as a series of actions. There's a great book on this, "Backwards and Forwards" by David Ball. I have a feeling that what some might mean by undue focus on image in Irish film is really quite a recent phenomenon in film in general that came with all the advances in image acquisition and processing technologies. It's only understandable. It was the same with CinemaScope as it is now with 3D. Just look at a Polish disaster of a 3D film "Battle for Warsaw 1920”. It will all pass. In the meantime here are a few thoughts on Irish film in general.

Lack of, a dearth of tragedy. Like everyone knows, the main thing about tragedy is that the hero struggles against all odds for what is believably presented to us as a laudable goal. In true tragedy (and these days very little of it about) the hero's suffering is inflicted upon her or him wantonly. It is a Greek invention. It asserts the basically unreasonable nature of the course of History. This is what makes the Hero's actions heroic, it is a fight for a (generally assumed) Lost Cause. The Hollywood Happy Ending is a clever adaptation of this by making, equally unreasonably, the Good and the Happy triumph. A good book in this context is "The Death of Tragedy" by George Steiner. An example of a film that should perhaps have grasped this tragic mantle is "What Richard Did". I admit I never read the book on which the film is based but if Richard is a hero then we do need to see him far more as an individual with a unique goal and which Gods (and why) decreed his tragic fate.

Local nature of Irish film is a common issue. Often a way out is to focus of the mechanics of the story, the plot itself, see the successful British  "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels". Another approach is to universalise the human condition eg. "The King's Speech". Another angle that has worked well in "Once" for example is to make the story cross cultural.

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