Dark River : A Film Review

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Dark River

Written and Directed by Clio Barnard. Produced by Tracy O’Riordan. Cast : Ruth Wilson as Alice, Mark Stanley as Joe Bell, Seán Bean as Richard Bell, Esme Creed-Miles as Young Alice, Aiden McCullough as Young Joe, Shane Atwood as Tower, Steve Garth as Jim, Una McNulty as Susan Bell, Jonah Russell as Pete, Paul Robertson as Dec, Music by Harry Escott, (credit with PJ Harvey song of An Acre of Land), Cinematography by Adriano Goldman, Edited by Luka Dunkley, Nick Fenton, Production companies, Film4, Left Bank Pictures, Moonspun Pictures. Distributed by Arrow Films. Duration 1hr 29 mins. Certificate 15. Language, English. Country United Kingdom.  Supported by BFI and Wellcome Foundation.

Directors words

The third (after her The Arbor and The Selfish Giant) Clio Barnard film Dark River is a stark rural set familial drama which is unrelentingly grim and a reflection of contemporary unspoken and also prominent incidences of sexual abuse that are now surfacing as never before with revelatory troubling concerns. How Dark River is an example of the hidden domestic sexual abuse which is a scourge of society and is very hard to uncover is brought through the skilful yet sometimes evasive and metaphorical direction taken.  The water of the river in the Yorkshire setting is a place where it is both custodian and cleanser of the revelations made. Dark River is credited with a connection having been made to the book Trespass by Rose Tremain in its title closing credits.

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Beginning

Alice played with grace and substance by Ruth Wilson is returning to the place which is where she was once abused.  Having opened the film with her shearing sheep with equal speed and ease as men on contract farm work the sunny disposition of a shared lunch break is overtaken by the need to return home and lay claim to the farm she left fifteen years earlier.

Here she finds her brother Joe who is played by a strong oxen type of a young man in his thirties by Mark Stanley who must and does create a brooding sometimes menacing and broken keeper of the land of their father.

It begins with a lovely song by PJ Harvey, whose voice like that of Nora Jones, is set back into the folds of radio playlists for late time listening. Seldom is the story as close to the brooding melody and words of “An acre of land.” Differently it is to the scapes of the dales Clio Barnards cinematic eye is cast which is as a mostly dark and seldom warm environment. Beautiful it is but it foreshadows the emotions soon to be brought forth. The Bradford of The Selfish Giant is Beyond this environment. Where the poverty and determination sometimes playful and joyous in that film appeared occasionally no sense of joy is seen here. The landscape is the lasting thing but having returned to where she grew up, the home is too much a haunted place full of recurrent traumatic memories.

There is no mention of any substance to their mother and another departure is not made to explain the relationship which is like having a table with a missing leg. Instead the darkness is kept to be contained in the reaction and emotional torment faced by Alice in all kinds of confronting forms. By choosing to go back she is laying down a recapturing of her rightful legacy as a form of affront to the misdeeds and dreadful abuse she suffered there.

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Recovery

It is not possible or easy to reclaim the land in a bonding or empathetic sense, which is where Clio Barnard is taking the film. The river is not cleansing but is a habitat itself suffused with memory. Water is a splendid cinematic medium as a certain recent film testifies to. Alice in going back is troubling from the outset. She is firstly unable to live in the house. She instead chooses to life in the adjacent prefab. She has immediate flashbacks. The flashbacks are with her also in the life she has just left. Esme Creed-Miles as Young Alice, Aiden McCullough as Young Joe, create a bleak vision of the childhood tensions brilliantly and others such as Shane Atwood as Tower, provide a range of solid character parts.

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As well as visits to agricultural markets and the occasional pub, the landscape is significantly large as the land is shown with Yorkshire itself a broad scoping individual of a natural territory which the lens follows a formidable elemental beast. The North Sea is not far away from the river running to it. The weather and conditions are harsh and uncompromising. The skies are huge. The fields and boundaries wide. Some opening shots show the idyllic stone wall close cropped fields and padlocked animals as well as the straggling electricity pylons marching across the land of the white rose of Yorkshire as some behemoth. In exploring the two sides of the story. The land and its occupants it appears as though an attempt which Is unfortunately not achieved of a divination of some sort being sought or impending doom at the door.

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Landlocked

Joe is the custodian of the land and is brought to consider the harm caused by his father and carries with it an unspoken sorrow and guilt in having been there and unable to stop it. As well as his own lack of fatherly guidance to find a rebalancing for he is deeply at odds with the cruelty of the world and the bigger picture is someway seen through his innocence. There is talk of the big big world and his sole or limited excursions away from the farm concerned delivery of potato seedlings to and from Ireland.

 

That is seen as another green field. Where the grass is greener and the ways strange but a set of values of equivalence but not if his own. Such a position as we know is a gigantic misnomer. Keeping with Noe his sense of belonging is more complex than the film is able to document. It relies on conversations of alternative means of farming when challenged by Alice to make it work and go forward. The strength was and is in the soil and I heard Michael Longley speak of the isolation in Co. Mayo in its remoteness and his muse Carrigskeewaun. The town land of the place giving a broad expanse for the imagination to go wild and be entrained by belonging.

 

That land is mostly empty through immigration and escape to the towns near and far. Yet it remains a muse.

Here my imagination

Tangles through a turfstack

Like skeins of sheep’s wool:

Is a bull’s horn silting

With powdery seashells. extract from M. Longley’s poetry.

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Binaries

The land is cast almost as the ultimate boundary and to it, nature we all return. The lines of Longley’s poems infuse this sense of separation by the necessity of language, names , nomenclature to express their permanence as they newly cast out repetitions of themselves in life’s great mystery of binary codes. The powdery shells of calcium carbonate cast off.

Different lands but primordial things speaking back to us through the land as nature sustains location.

Dark River takes care to reveal this in Joe, and Alice is similarly a symbol for the land. How it is conveyed is through the absence of the connectiveness she yearns for that Joe possibly still possesses. The drama is the conflict of the two as metaphorical damaged people. The harm being internalised in Joe and he does not even know but Alice soon becomes distraught apart from her own remaking sense of belonging. Joe is approached by a land agent after Alice applies for tenancy rights. He is taken aback by the arrogance of Alice with her citing neglect of the farm and decline down to him. The buildings are in disrepair, the land boundaries broken in some places and tillage and unkept fields not consistent with tenancy agreements.

 

Mending fences

There is a period when the differences could be mended though Joe points out some home truths. The clear inability now she’s back, of Alice to unburden the hurt and harm and the unwitnessed haunting and recurring themes which we visit by flashback. The river is a retreat and a temporary escape. In previous times Alice had made her lover a young farmer called Spider and he is an occasional entry to the film. Joe is deeply disturbed by the possible change of role and the methods Alice uses to work the farm.

When Joe applies for the farm he is approached by land agents who want to remove both of them whatever the methods deployed. Without criminal or lawless action but by manipulation and blackmail the land agents set in play a set of irreversible actions.

There is a confused end to the film in which retreat is to flashback to carry the fathers hurtful and saturating part in the story. Alice is confronted by a set of new challenges which unfold from Joe’s disturbed mind. There is no remission from the causes of harm nor any satisfactory outcome possible but time is constant and this is a period of both their life’s which set them in conflict with each other and in need of repair.

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Conclusion ###3

Very occasionally a film comes along to reach into the dark corners of domestic abuse and also the wider incidences in institutional abuses. Sports, entertainment and many Religious institutions are presently in the headlines along with organised criminal and community sexual abuse being uncovered across these islands. This tires hard to tackle the subject through a story taken from the core of the book Trespass by Rose Tremain and visualising and dramatising a single woman’s story.

This story departs greatly from the land ideal and the places ‘genus loci’ being ultimately eroded and land speaking like Longley’s Carrigskeewaun being almost a skeleton of the earths bones being seen again after mans tilling and ancient furrowing of its surface to raise a life on. An Acre of Land – the song speaks of ancient giving and the scrawny legacy it represents unkept. The environment is key as is our relation to it is the message and the human being is sinful in every respect and often unworthy as a keeper. Alice is a retrieval missionary but is thwarted by the sibling ownership of equal resonance. Almost the child is the father of the man in Hugh Leonard’s sense.

from the graphic violence and incest visited on Audrun by her father and brother to Anthony’s near-romantic love for his careless and selfish mother. Then, engineering them into an impossibly volatile situation – kickstarted by Anthony’s immediate attraction to the crumbling Mas Lunel, and Audrun’s determination that it should not be sold – she leaves them to reap the consequences of their wonky desires and impetuous actions.” A reviewers take on Trespass.

The subject matter is a momentous multi layered one which is hard to dial into. Landscape is evoked as a contestable territory where vices are in conflict through the unresolved past and methods and approach’s carry the leaden crook sacrifice of innocence as the nature is fought with and contested without remorse, solace or forgiveness. Like many cases the time has past where the perpetrator has long gone and ultimately the sins of the father are left as remnants of history to be picked over like crows on a sheeps skull. A difficult slightly wandering and confusing watch but a worthy effort on a subject so difficult to handle or bring insight to.

John Graham

02 March 2018

Belfast

Showing on 02 March 2018 until 08 March 2018 at Queens Film Theatre.

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The Final Year : A Film Review

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The Final Year

Cast : Barack Obhama, John Kerry, Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes. Producers : John Battsek … producer, Diane Becker … co-producer, Alice Bristow … associate producer, Christopher Buchanan … co-producer, George Chignell .. Production Executive : Passion Pictures, Christopher Clements … Production, Executive: Motto Pictures, Ann Rogers,  associate producer, Kerstin Emhoff … co-executive producer, Julie Goldman … producer, Tyler Gurd … associate producer, Carolyn Hepburn … Production Executive Ann Rogers … associate producer, Andrew Ruhemann … co-executive producer, Nicole Stott … Production Executive: Passion Pictures, Erikka  Music by Philip Sheppard Cinematograph  by Martina Radwan, Erich Roland, Film editing by Joshua Altman, Langdon Page. Duration 1hr 29mins. Cert. 12a.

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The Final President

Home Box Office have created a documentary of the final year in office of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama’s tenure of service from 2009 to 2017 an inevitable expectancy reaching a form of closure.

THE FINAL YEAR is a unique insiders’ account of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy team during their last year in office. Featuring unprecedented access inside the White House and State Department, THE FINAL YEAR offers an uncompromising view of the inner workings of the Obama Administration as they prepare to leave power after eight years.  It is an ‘fly on the wall’ without the depth of the intimacy of private wrestling with the pervasive conflicting day to day manifestations of outfall not just of past history but managing the present.  It is inside and insightful yet is disappointing and troubling to watch.

News Management has soared to the top of everyone’s truth seeking senses.  It seems we are all on a course of becoming a component in an agenda of mismanaged futures through the choices made in elections everyone is on someone’s line of trajectory.  People as commodities.  Holding firm to truth and where it emanates from is as ever a pathos, as stories crush and compel arguments across Governmental desks.  Challenges are of unique carefully drafted message enveloped in media forms confronted by the reveal of history none were anticipating. Paradise papers and whistleblowers.  Julian Assange just recently became a citizen of Ecuador while the GB Government has him under house arrest.  Democrat disjunction, disfunction, is here to be seen also writ large ahead of the triumphalism of the anti-Athenian D. Trump.  Dialogue is free and interpreted instantly.  This film takes us up to that threshold and we are in the arc following when the choke was taken off the master tapes of the White House and Twitter accounts tell of internal wrangling.

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Term of Office

No longer is there a President of the United States but a franchise which is part an incumbent of enemies trading powers privilege staying off legislation. A News managed for the mass consumption in return for a route to launder currency is all it took to dismantle the final office frontier. Nations and boundaries no longer matter and instead a block chain of political dimensions untaught in manuals or educational establishments, for that is what they were, are grounded on blocks of power. High yield is a derivative played by arms provisions.

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Adjust the War

Barack Obama was the last President concerned with solving the long trail of a Rothschild type Imperialist agenda which saw the Gaza Strip as a battleground. He could not avoid it but it was not an analysis of sufficient gravity but a long held (dis)belief it was not a religious warp. So religion and it’s many dimensions never became part of the guidance on either side. Read the scholarly Saeb Shaath on the legacy.  Syria and The Middle East have held a long sword of unremitting horror over its own people extracting themselves from a century or more of exploitation through its  own tyranny.  http://saebpress.com/2013/08/saudi-arabia-funding-unrest-in-middle-east/. 20c Oil has been the catalyst for the resurgence of the Arab world to again become valid citizens in a fallible relationship with its surrounding neighbours and fellow followers of peaceful unity but it has harboured the hurt and damage caused by invasion and exploitation of corporate thieves. Now the calamity is in a frame of technicolour news as daily reports of intolerance, genocide and divisiveness saturate continents and infiltrate the outskirts of formerly untroubled Nations. Migration by displacement is a shared world problem.

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Calmness is a convoy of aid and here in the film of the round up of conventions and diplomatic dancing comes another narrative. Blaming and shaming. The aid literally is blown up by an actor for the world to react to, showing the failure diplomacy is. UN outrage is blunt and name calling. Putin is intent on alarming the world by showing here it is a crime to want peace if you do not accord with a rule of one Federation. The former Soviet Union is revengeful and Ukraine which barely gets a mention in this documentary is as near as we can place a truth of division outside of the Middle East used as a bargaining chip by both sides. The Hillary Clinton input is put aside also.

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Global Diplomacy

Heavily featured here is the Vietnam veteran John Kerry. He justifiable carries the burden of spokesperson for the nothing war which claimed and still does the lives of many of his fellow combatants and by mines left unexploded awaiting a victim. The Vietnam War follows through from Kennedy whose armaments fed the Vietnamese regimes fighting Communism to the Johnson and Nixon destruction both of their own troops and many civilians in Laos and thereafter came an legacy where there is still a long unbroken chain leading into Presidency after Presidency. Obama is intent on doing his peacemaking tour around the world and finds it gratifying and just in going back to the past and looking to repair the broken shattered peace and being a fitting memorial for drawing a line. Japan and Hiroshima will also feature.

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John Kerry is on the alternative narrative of dealing with today’s catastrophe while ignoring the elephant in the room of USA defence weaponry manufacture and industrial warmongering industries. Safe to say he is not a pacifist as late on he declares and at the same time purports to be seeking peace. On USA terms. The other handgliding drone in the room is a UN Ambassador whose job is to make the obstinate squirm and show up the fallacy of their ways. Samantha Power has the unusual insight of an Irish Immigrant background; disqualified from running for office by that origin but equipped by having been recruited on the basis of a journalists approach and her book on origins of war and where they are taking us, at least that was my original take on its premise. The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (sic) was the institution Samantha Power established a Human Rights Foundation in. From writing about how 20th century genocide was ignored (wide generalisation given the WWII and continuation of The Great War) is lost in narrative with the title The Problem from Hell. Women’s issues are highlighted and it is neither seen as a fashion thing about wearing hijabs or subjection but a basic lack of equality. Religious dogma is not writ large. Kidnapping and slavery and terrible abuses are documented while the daylight of a USA where a form of women’s subjection is to open on news fronts across industries in a #me too narrative is in the shade here. Truth will out eventually. One of the guides they fail to recount is John Stuart Mill, not only on divinity recalling the individual broadly used not as freedoms footnote but as a economic distribution ethos.

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Unintelligible is the strength and power of religious idealism and internally humanity overdoing any ‘value’ hierarchy brought about by trade. JSM relies on ‘constructive empiricism’ while seeing or rather not seeing ‘nature’ – the storms of civilisation alongside the natural phenomena of our daily bread – constantly putting us in our rightful place demanding reconciliation with it and ourselves. For JSM his wisdom also produced solutions peculiar to himsel& and in his relationship with Harriet Taylor evidenced an equality of existence even the Church could not form. Itself a ‘periclesian’ mode which was denying no one their individual freedom. The suffragettes at the same time conducted wicked and detestable bombing and created a scourge still not acknowledged as a means to an end. Democracy. Enemies were many and often with good cause. So this is a backdrop History is failing to include in the breath of those forces confronting the so called ‘leaders’ this film seems intent on eulogising in a passing river of consciousness as it reaches down rebranched tributaries and flows continually caring the waters which it will always carry.

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Dressing wounds

Narratives are forms of life and no history of the world can be written without the diaspora having a say. From the Anglicised retention’s of rule in a Fedralised America to the Religious strength consumed and abused in the USA and nations from the tip of South America up to Alaska, Canada, across Europe and spread dishonestly as a rhetoric of truth comes another will. The will of America to prevail and be prevalent as values which we are overhearing in the everyday talk of the rooms of power.  No mention of the G20 or Peter Sutherland, Goldman Sachs or any taint of monied America getting its hands dirty?  Just another HBO narrative with displacing counterpoint in soundbites hurled with intended anonymity into the whirlpool of chaos two steps behind the developing story.  At the beginning of the film comes a follow me routine. The feet fast and well shod on prepared ground. The diplomats timetable run out as prescribed in advance but always a beat behind. It’s as though they are insistent on not being their on time so as to disown the past.

Imperialist allies

Britain invented Israel as a removal of a family of languages and people. the afroasiatic form called Hamito-Semitic, a family of languages including as subfamilies Semitic, Egyptian, Berber, Cushitic, and Chadic.  Syria is Palestine and holds a bitter division in opposition to the Imperialist Israel Project with Lebanon as a hideout. An interesting novel character is found in a speech writer whose compass matches Barack Obama’s.  Ben Rhodes is an under forty master of spin and incisive vective. This is a part of Obama’s person he (Obhama) can’t devote time to so has allowed a surrogate to unfold his theories and unlock his wisdom. Unwittingly or is it intent, he is cast in the mound of a Jewish intern general with a false past which is possibly denuded of the Religious might he is from.

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Religion is swerved here. His Episcopal Father and Jewish Mother are tongues he listened to and listens internally to now it would seem safe to assume. No faith is to undo the legacy of an infant Israel heresy. Muslim or Christian. Judaism in a bold type of monotheistic reason is adhered to in American eyes.  Both these travellers, Obhama, Rhodes, are Religious in degrees privately it has to be assumed from other media but often as not it is left outside the Oval Office. Neither seems to realize their part is based in Religious heirachy and they are beholden by virtue of their cloth. That sets them apart and mitigates against their understanding of others values not matching theirs. Fundamentally in the Middle East.  Winston Churchill is apparently their mentor or past leader of choice for guidance. He was beholden to America also and Blenheim Palace became the gift of the British Crown for his persuasion in getting the USA to enter WWII and send supplies into a Europe which was under siege from that genocide The Problem from Hell. More like the problem of Hell. How not to see it. How to not recognize its advance.

Hell is in the clouds and earth.

Speeches set the tone and every new room entered has a pathos to be delivered. For Barak Obama it is the American Declaration of Independence and is foremost in lectures to the gathered. It was what a Congress was derived for. July 4, 1776, and the words were set in Washington’s Presidency. Those words were conscripted from Ulster’s Francis Hutchensons philosophy brought forth by Thomas Paine as exiles of the yoke of imperialism they so detested.  Unitarian in thought and principle their ideas were nevertheless based on individuals allowance of free thought. Less words would carry such might as those distilled here. Yet where are the notions of the Declaration in assignment against the tours of combat since embarked on. Only the hideous genocide of future generations in Africa and Asia would equal the waste of WWII and its legacy borne world wide. Now the countries are being stripped of their assets by new entrants from China and the G20.

Conclusion ###3

Rich as this film is equipped with the sensory media behemoth of the United States of America in history mode it fails to direct the camera in any decisive illuminating way while illustrating a West Wing narrative which is high on ideal and lacking in scuprles or any game changer dynamic.  The anticipation of office has been swamped by time advancing with greater perils opened up through truth emerging in histories recall.  As a mission to complete the 44th Presidency many repairs were sought to be made by Barack Obhama while his steadfast troops both suited and fatigued were deployed on present day flanks with much of the common talk broken into slow burning flames of hope.  It is a film worth seeing as a reminder of the removal from the political sphere a genuine worthy experience of mankind reckoning with their own failures and beholden by powers immensely conflated and misunderstood.  Philosophy is in its a bit but it is a failure to define politics as a motor of governance for the common good which is all too clearly absent given the extremes of the states and actors involved at the heart of our world order.

John Graham

18 January 2018

Belfast

Opening at Queens Film Theatre Belfast 19 January 2018 until 25 January 2018.

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The Secret Scripture : A Film Review


The Secret Scripture

Director Jim Sheridan, Producer Noel Pearson, Screenplay by Jim Sheridan, Johnny Ferguson. Cast, Vanessa Redgrave, Rooney Mara, Eric Bana, Theo James, Aidan Turner, Jack Reynor, Susan Lynch, Siobhan Redmond, Adrian Dunbar. Music by Brian Byrne, Cinematography Mikhail Krichman, Edited by Dermot Diskin, Production company, Ingenious Senior Film Fund, Voltage Pictures, Ferndale Films. Cert. 12a. Duration 1hr 48mins.


Beyond Dublin in the Green

Some people have got this film horribly wrong and are unable to cross over into it’s tragedy in a trinity of hope. The Irish Times gives it this ‘tribute’ – What’s that? Who’s he? Where’d that come from? When Barry’s novel was published, several critics argued that the final unlikely twist felt at odds with a hitherto disciplined narrative. It says something about the film that the reversal feels perfectly at home among so many even greater lunacies. It even casts sectarianism into a new vein without making comment of how diffuse these things are to convey – it seems in a blind alley Ireland. The mastery of the Bible both potent and conclusive lends written comfort to Rose, a woman betrayed.  It is within the unspoken reading between the lines we go with this film based on the novel of the same name by Sebastian Barry which makes for more imagining than the act of storytelling in film this is.  Nevertheless it is handled extremely carefully with a melding of eras and in themselves drawing comparisons.  The landscape is more familiar to the Irish and the need to know (Philomenas Story is a close relative) diaspora from Canada, America or Britain whose children are the fathers and mothers of new generations of the ‘departed’.  In complete association too are those left beneath fields, institutions buried so none would reflect on their memory except the mothers and those in the know.  From Priests to Police to Orderlies. Into the equationn come knowing townsfolk contributing to the complicity and getting on with their lives by ignoring it in order to straighten their own existence in the changing world.  For the story to begin we enter the present day at Rose’s Hospital and Residential Care home in the midst of it closing down.  Some lessons are learnt and there is clearly an attempt by Director Jim Sheridan to acknowledge Times have changed and the bullying and treatment of people like animals has been removed.  In this present environment there is real care and a making good with what is at hand.  Even the prospect of Rose being able to go to somewhere other than a mental asylum has reared its head.

With the dramatic stroke of a pen Sebastian Barry conjures up a back story to the aging and institutionalised grande dame Vanessa Redgrave playing Roseanne McNulty whose 50 years committal to this decaying and listed for demolition Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, is transported on the journey of her earlier life and circumstances.  Doctor Grene (Eric Bana) is sent to determine whether Roseanne is fit to be released.  The younger Rose is played by the affluent and Irish connected, Rooney Mara whose arrival in a small village in 1940s Ireland causes two men, a fighter pilot and a priest, played by Jack Reynor and Theo James.


New horizons revisited

Jim Sheridan has Oscar-winning debut My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father as home based movies and into Irishmans habitual magnetic pull to tales of immigration he went and it did not fail him with the exile story In America, and was an acclaimed award winning film also.  Some subsequent entries to the mainstream movie still didn’t seem to suit his work and this is a return of more recognisable formats and it is an attempt by Sebastian Barry to story tell the periods which define present day Ireland the diaspora and wars intervention.  This of course brings in relationships as the bolstering narrative force.  The auld triangle of a beautiful young woman and two bantam cocks clanging the auld triangle and creating conflicts?

Rose has kept a dairy all these years and we enter its tableau – shortly into the arrival of Rooney Mara from Belfast where it’s unsafe after bombing there.  The arrival of a beautiful independent woman is on this West Ireland landscape in the shadow of Yeats Benbullben outside Sligo, is to an already developed hybrid of gentry, Anglo patrons and a subdued, suppressed by Religion ‘compliant’ malcontented population.  They are not mercifully at war though many across Ireland went and fought alongside the British as it was 1. an option 2. There was little for them at home.  The mainstay of any small community is its perverse sense of hierarchy and those who disobey and act up are likely cast out.  Rose is recruited into her Aunts Hotel Temperance establishment and quickly the honeypot of the scented air takes her into the midst of village taboos.  The first ‘normal’ encounter is with a young man called Conroy a labourer for a hard nosed local family.  They have a built in hatred on the English and when there is another approach not altogether religious and skirting his own anxieties surrounding masculinity and his sacrifice comes Father ..    Rose deflects such straight eyed advances and goes her own path while accepting invitations to the local dance.  The presence of the Church is everywhere and in the dance hall they are required to keep apart while hoAldi get one another while the Priest including the presence of Father …. they leave enough space not to be sinful.

The film is drawn out using a great deal of passage from the present to the past.  It in done with good untroublingbpassage and with the versatile Vanessa Redgrave playing the Lady Rose and the unnerving accurate Rooney Mara as the younger vunerable Rose.

Inconsistencies and alterations. Implausibilities? 

Very strongly held views on this film have come from many who find the story confusing and too contrived in its far fetched coincidences and shaping of characters that feature less in the book than put to purposes dramatic here.  Some even call it a travesty.  Sebastian Barry having sold the rights keeps his counsel and his silence is taken as being far from endorsement. There certainly are large parts of the long history left in the book and a Rooney Mara’s Rose here has a prominent role in a central love story which contains its central themes.  She is an incomer, she is a beautiful sophisticated woman, she is of independent mind, she is entering a part of ‘remnants of occupied’ Ireland beset with unfettered resentment, she enters a village which has ahigh morality  driven by the Church, she is also in proximity to state institutions which remove children and separate single mothers from their babies and lock them up and give their babies away for money.  She also is in proximity to a Medical system crudely operating the appliances of ECT and shock treatment as normal for mental illnesses or difference.  She also notices the formidable rectitude of everyone to hierarchical status including her domineering Aunt (Siobhan Redmond) who’s name along with a few others are not easy to find on press credits oddly.  So is it deplorable to drop large parts of a book and get Shakespearean in this gazette of Ireland observed by the Filmaker Jim Sheridan who wrote the script along with the late Johnny Ferguson.?  There are central characters in this which do not sit comfortably with some people.  The airman flying a Spitfire – they ignore the reconnaissance tasks in the West Coast Atlantic seaboard where U-boats were often found and Lough Foyle famously being the last outpost for plenty of U-boats and also forget the American airbases – the recent BBC My Mother and other Strangers gave you the opposite to this film, delivering a War soap opera – which were in Fermanagh and all across Northern Ireland full of troops and airmen training to be pilots in preparation for the Secret D-day landings.  8,000 in Kilkenny Co.Down alone. While the book may have consorted with the flying mission instead of being a land based soldier, it matters little.  Bonzos are quite capable of shooting down ‘foreign’ planes and planes crash.  Many flights no doubt took place over this very stretch of Ireland’s republic.   Where do you take fault?  Is it the neatness of parts of the linkages.  Is the element of delving into people’s past too trite?  Sheading interesting characters? Is the ludicrously large white collared Priest Father Gaunt too comical and pathetic a figure. His character is volumously turgid and corrupt of a conflicted man. Are the nurses of the old school too clean and Matronly while being intensely underlyingly cruel? All these questions to my mind are nonsense and in the core of the film Rose is telling you how unstable memory is. The record to has advanced writing out that history.  Some of it is fantasy and in parts some of the grim reality turns out to have another side.  I don’t care if half the time the story finds a simple way to the next part as we are closely kept to the woman at is heart trying to imagine what happened to her.  Can you imagine how much she must have struggled to put that behind her.  For her imaginings of what happened to ultimately coincide with a partial reality?  The questions need not be effecting in terms of how they are coming to you as essentially they are in the realm of broken fractured memory.  The script actually places false directions in Rose’s mind only.  The other characters are real and no such bewilderment is visited through them.  Their part is sometimes savage and brutal.  Rose’s is in a state of protection in a fixed world she has inhabited for 50 years?  Can you imagine the damage caused to her and many women like her?

Similarities

I opened the play The Steward of Christendom at random and came across the same times as here. There are common investigations and trials of the past – society in Ireland – undergone by Sebastian Barry of which I rate the play as masterly, profound, haunting, sad forgotten history, much as this film indeed takes us into and it is quite political but Donal McCann made it definitely ‘other’ about the human improsoned in Ireland. Inside the Institution and outside on the Island fighting seeming wrongs. It made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end in its horrific prescience. Even now it inhabits the same place – even more so given the recent barbaric dreadful disclosures of previous generations guilt and the pain inflicted in those institutions.  Here’s the line I found straight on opening its pages of the powerful orderly Smith – Even in the ward of old dames with their dead brains, have some of them opened their eyes and are weeping to be woken, with your bloody shouting.  Do you want to go in with them, old man? After I beat you! Sebastian Barry on the case even then.

Eric Bana takes a high dose of listening to his requirement for enquiry about Rose.
The rich dramatic material at play and the fascinating historical backdrop means there’s plenty here that proves initially appealing. The young Rose is trapped by her sexuality, arousing interest in men without the slightest provocation on her part yet facing the full force of blame from those around her. The film briefly explores the complicated rituals of dating at the time and the dangers of a bruised male ego when a woman dares to turn a man down.
Initially there was a backlash in contemporary Ireland to the book with its closeness to history and claims of abuse ever in the headlines playing out.  It was seen in reviewers eyes as being far fetched and characterisations of romance purile and simplistic. For the film it’s seen likewise by many. The closing of the film is too contrived and unexpected as Vanessa Redgrave holds centre stage with her marbles intact.  The Secret Scripture use devices of story telling which only flow smoothly in books but it is admittedly hard to convey in the time period of a movie.  Demands of twists and turns though have been dealt with very satisfactorily by Jim Sheridan and there is no overplay of the gestures and realisations as they unfold.  With Vanessa Redgrave playing Beethoven’a Moonlight Sonata, (an accusatory critic paled at its repetitiveness) in solitary moments in a room, we see the breathing diaphragm of a living person recollecting her past.  It is not only sweet and convincing it is powerful and moving.

For the time periods to intermingle we have to have contrast and Susan Lynch playing the part of a present day nurse becomes a key vehicle for the sensitivity of history learnt. Her knowing, caring, is in seeing the woman in Lady Rose and reflecting on what she has gone through over forty years.  With the instruction having been given to assess her being taken up by a psychiatrist who is intrigued by the fortitude and forceful will of Lady Rose, is Eric Bana who plays admirable the ‘outside’ caring professional, quick to note discrepancies in the work of his peer, the notable Dr Jello  of Adrian Dunbar who is in charge with emptying the establishment and sees it as in ‘the line of duty’ as a role he plays with predictable solidity.   Dr Grene on the other hand is given slack and time by Sebastian Barry to develop a quick relationship of patient and Doctor which in present times of austerity are unimaginable.  Nevertheless an authors due – the slack given on occasion to movies due to time scale particularly in adapting books – is to make plausible a story’s reach.  Eric Bana and Susan Lynch form a convincing team and share the sandwiches, lunchbox treats and soups etc. or whatever sustenance is at hand in between Rose’s rest and elderly ramblings.  They too remain in the ghost like building emptying around them.  That is when switches occur back to Rooney Maras action packed life take us into a believable village – preposterous to critics of the book – with fabrications of conflicts infighting and japes and foolery unbetoken of Ireland of the time.


Irony lost on viewers

Sebastian Barry has of course given some ribald irony and an edit of preposterous heft to the story as if to say – Ireland, you were present when this was happening around your ears yet all you could do was turn a blind eye and more than that get caught up in rebellion against a country at war and a religiosity which tore the faith in God out of you and created a purgatory here on earth. It is tangible to see this cussedness in Irish people of that time but it causes more pain it would seem.  The truth always too has its victims. That is the line, the horrific line this film wishes to take us over and into a powerful emotionally troubling period for the characters who represent in fiction real people’s lives unimaginable at this distance horribly corrupted and ruined.  So there is a backlash of morality fighting for concealment as due reflection turns over too many stones close to the perpetrators unable to come to terms with their own families part in these vexing times.  Why drag up the past?  The reason is it uncoils itself in many ways not least in being held in so, it becomes repeated as a manifestation of ancient held in guilt in the sub-cncious passed on.  The doplar effect of the mind.  Séan Hillen in his Irelantis fictional world creates a counter narrative in art with the juxtaposed John Hinde visions of Ireland and as richly as film and novel forms.  More is essential for understanding ourselves the better.

There are scenes in the film which many will find arguable and condonable however I see those particularly disturbing pieces of work as entirely plausible credible entries to the hidden stories Ireland has masked for decades.  It may not be the truth but it bears an uncanny resemblance to the unfurling detail.  It is why it must be examined for what it contains, not for what you would like it to appear.


No chemistry? It’s not totally about their relationship but what hovers around it.

On parallel works

Hence the auld triangle goes jingle jangle. From Galway to Dingle, from Derry to West Cork it’s been happening for decades. Both the internment of the young and vunerable and the institutional abuses therein. The Steward of Christendom by Sebastian Barry was an intensely brilliant play I’ve seen several times and had on it acting – the unforgettable The Dead film character of Gabriel Conroy played by Donal McCann whose performance in John Huston’s 1987 film of the Joyce short is itself a piece of Irish history and also a masterful core part of Irish Cultural excellence in all its various themes.

The themes of the play are not equivalent in this film but provide another shape to the times within this film. For a synopsis of The Steward of Christendom – I’ve extracted the following from a ubiquitous source. The play opens in a county home (an inpatient psychiatric facility) in Baltinglass, Ireland in 1932, some years after Irish independence. In the opening scene, Dunne (Donal McCann) appears to be raving incoherently, reliving an episode of his childhood. As the play continues, Dunne slips from moments of lucidity to reliving parts of his career as a senior officer in the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), especially the handover of Dublin Castle to Michael Collins in 1922 after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He also relives memories of his family, particularly his daughters, Annie, Maud, and Dolly. Dunne is also visited by the ghost of his son Willie, killed in WWI; Willie’s ghost appears to him in the form a 13-year-old child but dressed in the soldier’s uniform of his 18-year-old self.

Here the date focussed on by Barry is the early 1940’s. The institutions had been around and become part of the identity of Ireland. In Belfast the 1932 move to Stormont from what was and had been the Northern Ireland Parliament one hundred yards from QFT in the now Theological College since partition in 1925. Sebastian Barry covers this ground in much of his work, of institutional Ireland of State and Health the life on the streets and rural world grippingly as he loosely affirms family connections with the Thomas Dunne the Dublin Metropolitan Police Commander in the play. So too this film for its depiction of a former period of important movement in Ireland. These histories are intertwined and Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera both had ‘seats’ at the Belfast Union College but never once collected from the fifty boxes of the MPs the Order papers of the day for that emerging Parliament. One could play the card Eamon de Valera was a double agent to the British hegemony as future republicans were to similarly trade their countries status. Not in a film though as truth is mainly stranger than fiction.

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Conclusion ####4

I began with a mindset carrying ideas of the lukewarm critical reception of the book and film, both inhabiting that doubt common to adaption of part historical narratives.  I need not have concerned myself too much because this film opens up a layer of life which is seldom considered in its continued influence and in the magnitude of its shaping usand the identity formed as a Nation on its multiple layers of relationships across continents, across short sea journeys and across hedges and parishes.  It harbours a fiction I see to contain many probable realities. I never read the book.  In the depiction of Lady Rose played brilliantly on both parts. Rooney Mara as the young independent free spirited, intelligent incomer beauty full of warmth and expectation and the kaleidoscopic thespian skills not wasted or lost of Vanessa Redgrave, herself no stranger to loss or to Ireland’s perplexing past, is not only endearingly charming but purposely disjointedly harmonious and comforting in its plainness.  There is nothing plain under the surface no matter what the Irish take or spin on it happens to be or where the deniers – and they are the ‘plain’ folk of Ireland themselves, mostly due to present many frstations of suffering across the world would prefer to banish and put away in a state of complacent bewilderment.  If only that were our only path.  The Secret Scripture is written – a form of blasphemy- in black on the Bible – as in the Temperance Hotel (you could say it was a depiction of Ulster which has many many connections with Sligo) – here is a Lilliputian Jonathan Swift world of male believe.  Now and then.  The Bible being the only book – in this puritan hotel – is the only marginila Rose has to take into her incarceration as a hidden diary.  For its uncovering, not matter it’s Preposterous retrieval there are unsettling truths like the words of the Bible itself.  As it is not a Book which is safe in the Clergies hands nor taken with pillars of salt in communion amongst the suppressed and mal treated citizens, already infiltrated by a siege power of a monarchist force.  Since the 1166 occupation the persistent and systematic entrapment is in plain sight from the pulpit and before the pulpit.  Both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland contrite and corrupt in unity of suppression against Gods will.  This film will be seen initially as a passing anecdotal fable worthy of a watch but light on appeal.  It will upset and conflict with perceptions narrow and broad but I would say it will after several viewings reveal itself in time to be full of its own contested narrative slowly bringing a reckoning to bear as its bold and more extreme view is received as history continues to recite its clarion vision.  It is there for us to see in a wider sense and while novels, films can only open some fictional presentation of a past long gone it is always a sudden shock to see its proximity to truth and realisation is slow but within reach.  On a question alone of the mix up of plot and some too fanciful occurrences I knock it back from being a 5 as it is to my mind of a very determined voice setting out to familiarise the world and those closer with the inexcusable period in the past in this country – worse if most probably being effected unknown to us in other parts of the world – and it is a piece of the pyramid of truth being built in memory of those children and women.

It is like a whisky chaser hitting your throats but this is why the fondness for diversion is like dashing your head on the rocks.  So much is ventured there is no small comfort to be had except through thinking along the lines I think Jim Sheridan, Sebastian Barry and the fine strong cast found themselves nurturing.  While it is discomforting it is due plenty of deliberation.

John Graham

22 March 2017

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 24 March through to and including  30th March and on General release.

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Post Behan Brectian Proustian stories

In Ireland the confinement of Women and Men distinguished little in Mental Institutions from the Prisons like the Mountjoy that inspired the Dominic Behan The auld triangle goes jingle jangle. The lyrics still are chilling and how the Bi-sexual Brendan Behan came to them is anyone’s guess but the waking traingle of the Prison warder still makes people sit up and listen to these lyrics – the last verse.

In the female prison there are seventy women 

And I wish it was with them that I did dwell 

And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle 

All along the banks of the Royal Canal

Was the mind of Ireland imprisoned during these times?

From The Quare Fellow of 1956

ACT 1:
A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing

And the mice were squealing in my prison cell,

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

To begin the morning

The warder bawling

Get out of bed and clean up your cell,

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
The screw was peeping

And the lag was weeping…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)

ACT 2:

A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing

And the mice were squealing in my prison cell,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

On a fine spring evening,

The lag lay dreaming

The seagulls wheeling high above the wall,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
The screw was peeping

The lag was sleeping

While he lay weeping for the girl Sal…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)
The wind was rising

And the day declining

As I lay pining in my prison cell

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
In the female prison

There are seventy women…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)
The day was dying and the wind was sighing,

As I lay crying in my prison cell,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

ACT III, Scene II (end of play):

In the female prison

There are seventy women

I wish it was with them that I did dwell,

Then that old triangle

Could jingle jangle

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

To this song provided for The Quare Fellow by brother Dominic we can add along the themes of imprisonment is this universal song. 

I shall be released

By Bob Dylan

They say ev’rything can be replaced

Yet ev’ry distance is not near

So I remember ev’ry face

Of ev’ry man who put me here

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

They say ev’ry man needs protection

They say ev’ry man must fall

Yet I swear I see my reflection

Some place so high above this wall

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

Standing next to me in this lonely crowd

Is a man who swears he’s not to blame

All day long I hear him shout so loud

Crying out that he was framed

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

 

End

Silence : A Film Review


Silence

Director. Martin Scorsese. Cast. Andrew Garfield (Fr. Sebastião Rodrigues), Liam Neeson (Father Cristóvão Ferreira), Adam Driver (Fr. Francisco Garrpe), Yōsuke Kubozuka (Kichijiro), Issey Ogata (Inquisitor Inoue), Tadanobu Asano (Interpreter), Nana Komatsu (Christian Villager #1), Shinya Tsukamoto (Mokichi). Language English. US/Taiwan/Mexico. Drama. Cert. 15. Duration 2hr 41mins.

Bicameral doubt

Silence refers to the God unheard.  If your listening, the bat kol that boundary of the divine voice is silent.  Over time everlasting God has been silent and in the words of Jesus he alone speaks of the Lords guidance of supreme glory and seeks our passage into the kingdom of God. That is of course a personal view and one about pursuit of truth.

“The nature of secularism is fascinating to me, but do you wipe away what could be more enriching in your life, which is an appreciation or some sort of search for that which is spiritual and transcends? Silence is just something that I’m drawn to in that way. It’s been an obsession, it has to be done… It’s a strong, wonderful true story, a thriller in a way, but it deals with those questions.” – Martin Scorsese


Silent story

Set in the 17th Century, the film follows two Jesuit priests who face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to find their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) and propagate Christianity. The priests, Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver), arrive in a country that, under the Tokugawa shogunate, has banned Catholicism and forbidden almost all foreign contact. There they witness the persecution of Japanese Christians at the hands of a government that wishes to purge Japan of all western influence. Thousands have already been executed and they eventually convince the Jesuit leader Cairan Hinds, to allow them to travel from Europe to Japan, in the prologue as we are introduced to the subject of finding out the actual whereabouts and circumstances of Liam Neesons fate.

Young missionaires

It is through Andrew Garfields as Rodriguez a Portuguese Jesuit Priest who along with Garrpe played by a gaunt and frail looking Adam Driver, the main bulk of the post history of Christianity’s penetration of Japan is told.  By enlisting the very dubious help of a guide played by Yōsuke Kubozuka (Kichijiro), who features throughout and is hugely integral as a link between the races, they enter Japan in the remotest island paradise, ironically verdant, beautiful and incongruously capable of sustaining a civilisation without hindered even of any kind.  By Gods design.  They instead reach a place where the remaining Christian Inhabitants are isolated unable to trade or move and are in a despairingly wretched place barely able to eke out an existence.  There are parallel and also isolated village communities which also do not communicate between each other as their memories and fears are ofspies and the inquisitor of severe repercussions that may manifest.


The ‘return’ of missionaries in the form of the brash, over confident, singularly fixed and uncompromising Rodriguez who is the opposite of the questioning, more grounded, philosophical and extentialist Garrpe, gives the Japanese Christians Renewed hope as Kichijiro introduces them to a group of villagers literally on landing.  They are welcomed into this fragile barely existing remote territory and the Christian faith is uplifted by their very presence and re-ritualising of the faith.  Even confession – that extremely dubious form of thetorical sin and absolution (meaning it is not in the gift of anyone to forgive as only ‘God’ can be asked to forgive) – is performed.  Ritualisation and order is established in – and this is fundamental to this religiousity – belief if only in formalised ‘uncertainty’ – and reproach is wasted within the confines of Jesuit minds and Catholicism.  That symbolises why the whole embarkation in mission in any age is subjected to ridicule, resentment, manipulation and scorn.  The symbolic universality is fixed not flexible in the human hands and ungodlike.  Image and theatre which Martin Scorsese is well practiced in is about – as religion is – about storytelling – not about the sciences of universality and human values inherently the same and equal – is employed as a narrative slightly old school as voice over and flashback but impeccably conveyed.

The elucidation in gesture and mannerisms and enunciation of the Japanese and American, Irish Actors is brilliantly delivered. Seldom in modern cinema have I been alerted to the importance of the delivery of language and line as a primary and essential aspect of dramatic filmmaking (Macbeth was the last time when I was conscious of making the required mental shift to adapt to the Scots accents and cadences within the Shakespearian rhythms of speaking as storytelling which worked for me but not as I said in that review for American friends) and as a consequence it makes this story very penetrable at all the levels it sets out to achieve.


Test of Faith

The assurance and confidence of Rodriguez is gradually changed and his character comes across doubt internally building and shaking beliefs at their fundamental level as they do in all that acknowledge it as humans.  In the desperation of one young Priest asking God for the truth of the suffering in Japan,  we realise the contemporary, familiar desperation known to the faithful and the secular, the atheist, we have no divine right to this life we embrace and share.  Less do we know it’s purpose and recoil in the conflict of good and evil in the presence of a creator in silence.  Silences are the root and branch of religious devotion and it is to the interior self the analysis brings determination and externally that alteration exists when the ‘real’ world is continuing on its vile course of inhuman acts, unable to listen to the guidance for all.  In one moment it is apparent ‘God’ speaks to Rodriguez.  In a moment when his faith is tested at the very threshold of his advocacy, in which denial becomes a very real necessity or choice, he is given the advice that forgiveness shall be forthcoming no matter what choice he makes.  It is an Abrahamic moment of judgement.  Allow the Son to die to live.

Directorial brilliance

Martin Scorsese has crafted a very profound and commanding film speaking ironically of the place of Faith religions in Japan and responding to the questions asked by placing different polarities of a point of view on religion.  He does it mainly through the cost of Priests and Christian followers of the infiltration to Japan in early 1600 of missionaries when confronted by National identity.  It is when they are called on to reject their faith publicallyband humiliatingly they begin to focus on the Silence.  First of these to face the call to reject their religion and faith is Father Ferreira played by Liam Neeson.  How come though it takes a no fee director and a cast on a pittance in Hollywood terms and maybe several other chips cashed in production, technical etc, wise, to make a film of this magnitude.  It is not a crowd pleaser nor is it pandering to convention in telling – in a year 75 years after the Japanese sinking of several submarines and vessels off Japan causing the loss of thousands of American Servicemen and women? – this narrative which has many many aspects which in any forward thinking civilised community can open up several strands of debate on our relationships in and through religions and with difference and how it is apparent that all choices are of a sacrificial kind. A loss to gain Not a gain to gain and then ultimately loose again.

 

Tadanobu Asano (Interpreter),


The power

The Japanese inquisitor Inouye, brilliantly, fulsomely, played by Issei Ogata, is almost a Devil incarnate playing with the emotions of Rodriguez when eventually they meet.  In several scenes, Inouye tells him that Christianity may be right for Europe, but it is wrong for Japan. Inouye is a supreme leader whose actions he characterised as symbols of his state.  His state and control therefore has no need of religion, it has its own as Liam Neeson explains, him having taken the Priest road less travelled and points to the Sun as their Son of God meaning all is in nature to employ gratitude and self identity which invokes astrology and cosmology as brothers in the science of discovery.  Inouye is mercurial and believable, a portray creating a real sense of Nationhood and most of these Japanese actors male and female deploy a level of gravitas and characterisation which Scorsese it seems has enabled them to ‘act’ to be unafraid of employing traits and characterisation to inhabit the part and screen.  It is absent in a significant part in my view.  Of that later.  By behaving as a evuncular wise old man with only his nation in mind and feigning sympathy – knowing the universality of religion God or no God undermines regime rule totally.


I think of the new polemic in Poland where feminism is challenged by a virtually statecrun monopoly on religion by Catholic based faith religious, forcing women who wish to have an abortion to underground risks and 10,000 women a year seeking abortions outside Poland.  There are now Welfare groups unattached to the issue of abortion being set up to recalibrate woman’s identity through yoga, fitness and general conversation and in relaxing environments.

It is the investment in common factors of emotion Inouye confronts Rodriguez with what he tells him is arrogance and puts forward the suffering he is responsible for in his presence and continual ministry to the faithful.  As every religion it is met with its own downfall through separation.  It is also the perpetrator of division in areas it succeeeds in bringing nations forward with it.  Be it imperialist Great Britain and the Church of England, The Demagogues of Jewish religions in Israel leaving behind the Judaism of their faith, the Catholicism spread as universality while being the foremost hierarchical assembly of Faith preserves on the panet.  China and large parts of Africa have no ‘established’ church and few places in Western civilisation have no presence of other than ‘established’ church which all secondary non-established non credal and non sectarian religions are supplanted minor followers in the body faith inherent in human kind.

 Yōsuke Kubozuka (Kichijiro)

Historical base

For this cinematic portrait to succeed as story and story it is, it has been based on the 1966 novel by the Japanese author Shusaku Endo, preceding it and priding that is a level of construction fictionalised through small written texts remaining of the whole failed attempt at Christianising Japan.

Throughout I had a concern regarding the playing of Rodriguez and Andrew Garfield for me lacked credibility in his emotional regard and over involved in lingering looks and stopping his facial expressions as footprints of emotion – frozen faces I call them – not acting is not acting it’s real? –  instead of the dexterous and malleable and at times throughly surprising for me who was not a great AD fan,  sings and laments as every inflection and word craft is used in its strength ultimately due to the well crafted script into reaching out to the audience to be illuminated in the intensity of meaning.  It was thoroughly old school in performance terms and in itself the Japanese and our own duo of Cairan Hinds and Liam Neeson invoked acting as a craft and art form that is very thin on the ground in a lot of modern films.  Meryl Streep has stood up at the Globe Award ceremony having a set delays stab at Donald Trump while her curios Albert Nobbs or Florence Foster are not in my view ‘acting supremacy’ – the kind of performances we see too often and the yet Meryl Streep gives in to the trope of being a character actor in the way Glenda Jackson never could nor does/did.

Conclusion ****4

It will be sometime before it is realised how important this film is in the Martin Scorsese filmmaking library.  Before have come works of dramatic historical and societal challenge.  Each constructing a view of the world based on real events and characterisations of the stories they inhabit.  This is no different.  The Last Temptation of Christ took on a historical figure and the most significant of all and he layered his own telling of the quest within the Bible to his own imagined extrapolation.  It formed a huge divide in opinion as it was partially construed as sacreligious and wild imaginary diversions not appropriate to understanding.  Given the Protestant claim at the time of Erasmus and the reformation as belonging to the Mother of Jesus born of a young woman as the Bible actually states, not the Virgin Mary extolled by the Catholic Church, the pRotestant faith claimed itself to be more Catholic and since the division erupts from time to time.  On the origin of Jesus religions bent and twist. Aristotle included.  The ultimate repost is – What is important?  The baby Jesus being the child of God or Mary as the Mother of Jesus.  Provide your own analysis but it is plain what faith resides in.

The film captures so many levels of understanding it would serve many to examine the questions which Martin Scorsese provides elements which concern mankind and the search for truth and peace among mankind.  So it not only looks superb and atmospheric depicting a very beutiful, intensely civil, complex and challenged Nation, – except the filming takes place in America/Taiwan/Mexico – it shows all sides of the existence of humanity and questions versions of our origin and ultimately challenges all to consider our creator and our need to fulfill the morality and lawfulness of rational organisation of our life’s and sustaining time.

It is a film which is calling people to listen, hear and be enlightened.

John Graham

11 January 2017

Belfast

Continues on General release and at Queens Film Theatre until 19 January 2017

The Innocents : A Film Review


The Innocents

Directed by Anne Fontaine, Produced by Éric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, Philippe Carcassonne.  Written by Sabrina B. Karine, Pascal Bonitzer, Anne Fontaine, Alice Vial. Based on an original concept by Philippe Maynial.  Cast.  Lou de Laâge, Agata Kulesza, Agata Buzek, Vincent Macaigne.  Music by Grégoire Hetzel.  Cinematography Caroline Champetier. Edited by Annette Dutertre. Production company, Aeroplan Film, France 2 Cinéma, Mandarin Cinéma, Mars Films, Scope Pictures.   In French, Polish and Russian with English subtitles. Cert. 15. Duration: 1 hour, 55 minutes. 

 Polish Immediate Post-War Recovery

From the same era and almost same territory as the highly rated, superb Ida comes another overwhelmingly harrowing war story. This is a Franco-Polish tale of founding of new live’s, of Mother and child which is based on a true story set in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.  The principals include the French Red Cross Nurse, Mathilde Beaulieu, (Lou De Laâge) tending soldiers injured at the local hospital who is asked by a Nun, who has found her after trekking through a forest from her Convent to the Village nearby.  The Nun seeks her help and her task is to tend to a Nun at the Convent and in secrecy. Having persuaded her, in a visionary way they set off in her Red Cross Twnsporter back to the Convent were the actual scenario quickly becomes established.  The Nun has been a victim of retreating Russians who left their calling cards.  As told to the Nurse she is first inclined to report it to the authorities – Polish and Russians still in joint occupancy – but the Mother Superior (Ida actor Agata Kulesza, the Judge and Aunt who drove Ida back to her roots) of the Benedictine Convent has to relent as here could be more suffering. Through the French speaking Nun named Maria (Agata Buzek) acting as translator and the closed order has a newcomer and this is where the story starts to unfold.  It is a case of dealing with new life in each and putting away thoughts, however ludicrous to outsiders, of shame.  So the the characters set before us initially; more or the order become involved, are three Nuns.  The Abbess who rules with a fierce discipline, Novice Nun Maria who is a focal interpreter of both language and emotions, then the Novice Nun Zofia who has been victimized by the Russians.  To see this trio as the holy trinity is an elastic take but one is the fundamentalist, one is the mediator, one is the innocent victim.  Mathilde is the fulcrum of the outside unknown world the order are enclosed from.  They have also to pass through to the next phase when the novices adopt the order in its fullest sense.  So we are on the cusp of desparate problems and challenges for all.

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Mirrored worlds old and present.

The layers are twin emotional opposites but mirrors.  The Order of Nuns obviously regard themselves wedded to Christ and there has been a violation of the most personal kind with as a consequence, the horror of confronting the thought God has permitted this to happen.  Novice Nun Zofia is he first to be traumatised in the act of childbirth.  Her rape has been supressed within her and now this revisiting is the symbol and token of shame and is now present in a new form of life.  This is potentially the destruction of all their concepts of God other than Mathilde who is intent on saving life.

She is the other side, the beautiful practical, skilled,French Nurse whose primary aim is to ensure all life she comes across is maintained and taken care of.  The thin line traversed between these seemingly inextricably linked forces is brought out with feminine sisterhood and morality being upheld through the living forms they share.  Hence the initial gesture of the Abbess relenting and allowing her into her world.  She has also secrets throughout and is in quickly failing health a legacy of the past.  Being accepting of medical assistance pushes the limits of her faith.  Here Agata Kulesza portrays the angst as torridly as she dealt with the delusions of War in Ida and he aftermath when she became reduced to a small court circuit judge dealt out tokens of Law when the greater magnitude of injustice had justed been visited upon an entire continent.  Here the stakes are no less explicitly defined.  The magnitude is the depth of depravity that ranges up into the lives of the Innocents,  the sinfulness of the world which is now brought inside their order and is seen as part of the grand design and mechanism of Divine worship.  The merest consolation is as directed by the Abbess, to the devotion to prayer and it is little reconciliation with the outside, now inside world.


Worn characters

Mother Superior has the role of being a defender of the faith and ways of the Lord which she summons up the most fervent chains of belief which have the capacity to devour her devotion in the midst of this conflicting maternal grounding.  Along with this the effect on the Nuns, Maria and as some others reflect on their lives among men, discuss it now with the core central presence of Mathilda, one which facilitated new thought.  Mathilda herself is set some challenges which she submits too comfortably to and with greater ease than you might expect.  The strands of personality are thus shaped into very individual needs and the Mother Superior’s world is the one with the greatest challenges it seems.
Inspired by the journal notes of Madeleine Pauliac, a young French Red Cross doctor who worked in Poland at the end of World War II, “The Innocents” (which was called “Agnus Dei”)  it is set in 1945 Poland occupied by Russian troops with the opening frames are within the Convent of the Benedictine closed order of Nuns at Daily prayers.  From this capsule of peace and tranquility will spill the infiltrations of the Outsiders and those still surrounding them.  It is graphic in its gripping sense of evil and wickedness as visited upon this location and still resonates with seclusion, self denial, faith and feeling interlaced with God and humanity all subjects around today.  The portrayal of beauty is the tangible simplicity of core inner beings and the imperious self reflection done through denial of all objective things and this is how the scenes, drama is thrust forward relying on phrases looks and almost minimal monotonal effects.


Mathilda has to keep the whole presence of this secret inner Convent story away from her colleagues she travels back and forth to, for fear of bringing down the Orders whole presence and she is not least tasked in this, through her male colleague a Jewish French Doctor whose parents went to the Bergen-Belsen Concentration camp.  He is Samuel (Vincent Macaigne) is a self deprecating suitor of this young and beguiling Nurse.

While this film pushes the limits with heartfelt tremors of emotion which will have many coming away sickened, elated, coruscating about the needs of women of all timescales, elements of history, not having the instilled goodness to life according to need, the story does take some fairly plain, consoling overtures and simplifies certain aspects for the sake of film making I guess.  It reaches conclusions rather too radidly and conversations which begin to explain the personal hidden views and they vary immensely, are unfortunately short while centrally illuminating.  Each Nun has a reason or belief drawing her into this Christ union.  A book I’ve read, probably one of the finest, is a short true story of the early life of Through the Narrow Gate: A Memoir of Spiritual Discovery Paperback – January 27, 2005 by Karen Armstrong (Author) telling of her time as a novice and the considerations she had to make.  

 

The look and feel of story telling.

The appearance of the film is vivid and lucid like a representation of renaissance painting having moved on from being as the allegorical Biblical paintings preceding, telling a story from the Bible.  Here the framing and cinematography is a moving interpretive painting elegantly disposing of its interior messages as much through dialogue and expression as in giving a sense of separateness the film has concerning these Nuns in their secluded life and the contrasting confounding outside which has only just set down, temporarily the guns of war.  They have to deal with the violation of a deeper self and abortion is not among their options.  Where this seems to stand up for  Anne Fontaine and the writers is the contrasting of certain worlds.  As of today and victims of rape they are no different circumstances but simply deeper questioning f where morality has taken us.  The sin is first in the war and in the belly of the warring soldier is a desire to shed his guilt through violence upon women as a deliberate defiant act.  An expression of the lost masculinity war invokes.  The experience opposite to its portray and as betrayal of themselves as human beings.   Anne Fontaine has a sharp story with which to explore those aspects however simplified some elements here turn out.


Conclusion ####4

This is perhaps an attempt at a redemptive film but I see the conclusions not informative of the unique experiences then or as they intend to advance.  Too many loose ends are bundled into neat reflective outlets.  It nevertheless stunningly  grasps its raw material as insight and is told without judgement, a surprising word to use as the actors have to convey the differences and complex challenges it makes of their own vocations.  Even the Nurse has to seek out her own values and then separate them from her ability to help everyone. This film covers war, rape, religion and all strands of humanity in trouble and as a quest for understanding how these issues have and are being dealt with will stimulate many more discussions and create better informed views hopefully.  It is thoroughly recommended as one of the Best Foreign Films of the Year in which there are several other excellent contenders including Son of Saul which was itself a Polish depiction of a the Concentration camp at Berger-Belsen and as such fits into a set of unknown or barely conceived brutality which film makers now take on with greater clarity and effectively.

John Graham

17 November 2016

Belfast

THE INNOCENTS will screen at QFT from Fri 18 – Thurs 24 Nov.
Well worth the effort in going to see and the large widescreen does amplify the experience.

Mustang : A Film Review


Mustang

Director co-writer. Deniz-gamze-Erguven. Co-writer Alice Wincour. Cast. Güneş Şensoy as Lale, Doğa Doğuşlu as Nur, Elit İşcan as Ece, Tuğba Sunguroğlu as Selma, İlayda Akdoğan as Sonay, Nihal Koldaş as the grandmother, Ayberk Pekcan as Erol, Erol Afşin as Osman. Duration  97 mins. France/Germany/Turkey. subtitled. Cert 15.

Portrait of tyranny 

There are tragic notes and despairingly sad moments in this Turkish first time Director piece on the semi-recognised crossroads of religion and secular society in this trouble torn conflicted nation.  It is a modern identity struggle between not necessarily ages but the soul and spiritual perceptions abroad and especially as focused on here among the young women, bearers of the future. A horror movie on patriarchy some have said.  It certainly is and the means of its delivery are coached in surreal accentuated prison conditions with a large number of elderly relatives; the girls have lost their parents and are cared for by Uncle Erol and his mother along with a plethora of increasingly adverse group of fundamentalist Muslims tied to inequality and a male dominated society inside a home which turns into a lock down basically as gates and grilles are added.

Stylised Story Direction

Far from being a tirade on the conflicts of a society riven with problems at state level and local traditions this film is carefully constructed in an almost hyper reality form.  The heightened colourist painterly direction is one clue. The is of humour and small elements of narration with portrayal of ordinary life which when the subject of marriage comes up becomes a tableau of choregraphed acting.  Not by the ‘Actors’ but the people they portray act the roles passed down to them in a ritualized form as a domestic aggrement of arranged marriage is formed.

The girls all five have an beautiful existence next to the Black Sea from the youngest, Lale through Nur, Ece, Selma, and Sonay the eldest whose joint meeting school end in celebration by dive bombing in the sea with boy classmates as innocent fun becomes the reason of their future ‘encarceration’ after word gets out and this willfulness is interpreted as sexual expression.  Virginity is a central part of their indentity in this society where marriage is contrived as firstly the woman being ‘intact’ as they describe it and then in a position to marry according to their parents or guardians wishes to whoever they choose.  Uncle Erol and his mother are tyrants with a grip and formidibale power.

 Beware the Clooney he’s married.
Football supporters miss the bus.

Beach Forbidden

The episode on the beach becomes the fulcrum on which the film shows us the extent of the power of tradition and Uncle Erol whose very large home and farm/small holding provide all with a handsome living, is troubled.  Sometimes he is forced to adopt the role of Patriach and leader of the household and then at other times sees the sisters as a loving Uncle wishing them the freedoms and absence of anxiety they have suffered.  The state and Church have embedded ded a deep and entrenched obedience in the elders while the world changes all around them.  They do not get to spend their summer on the beach ruin the woods or around the hillsides and adjoining village.

Hyper real and Counter Sexualising

The girls have in contrast the modern appearance of any wonderfilled child in a place where freedoms are open and unquestioned. This tears the generations apart and the business of matchmaking is abusive and despicable adherence to oppressive practices. The filmaker expresses their sexuality by their differences growing.  Where they lie together and the camera constructs a painting they have all different knees arms legs toes which the cinematographer singles out as defining them as different characters each not sexual objects of the Turkish severe patriachical male object driven vision but as girls as essentially women of growing awareness containing very different inner dilemmas within the context of mutual identity.  It is neither overtly Feminist or remotely Sexualised.  It is a tribute to womanhood understood by the filmaker and is the internal hyper reality the film delivers.

Present day Hypocricy Democracy

In Turkey there are more journalists in Jail than in Russia. Human Rights violations are a daily occurrence and a decades slip in advancing Human Rights in response to the EU backward slid is atrocious and Turkey has suppressed the rights of women and young women’s ddemonstrations. The middle classes are now facing the lack of visa free travel which calls the Parliment to seek visa free travel.  The refugee crisis is becoming a tool to attack the EU while at the same time not providing a solution to the movement of people.  Greece might be relieved and having to save fewer lives from the sea.

The Story Envelope

As most of the above deals with the construction of the locality of the rural community which is beset with modern ideals of equality and as sought and obtained to a large degree in other parts of fringing Europe the story has to tell the experiences felt by five sisters in the heart of the conflicts they find themselves growing up with.  The story goes through the enforced marriage of two of them, the rebellion it brings within them all and a deeply tragic, heart reaching pivotal moment which is brought to bang home the effect such a society or parts of it inflict upon those who follow the strictures consigned by the Church and State.  The rebellion is very dramatic and forces the elders into a place where some of the women who have gone through much hardship and total oppression over their own lifetimes, to address the teenage emotions through their hearts and to ease the path.  It is very hard for all of these women to alter what is an endemic systematic corruption.  It is exploited at so many levels and any rebellion is accompanied usually by myself gyration and Turkey has suffered through migration and is itself under great strain and pressure to accommodate the exodus from Syria.

How this film concludes is open ended at the same time salutary and asking as many questions as it began with.  It is a far bigger development of the questioning of frictions and oppression withinTurkey as is replicated elsewhere and extremely well told.


Conclusion ####4

A very good interpretation of religious and cultural pressures on women in Turkey through hyper real scenes and general feel of opposites juxtaposed to bring forth a very serious and angry forceful delivery and on behalf of women’s rights.  It is on a daily basis Women’s rights are suppressed in Turkey and it wonders how it cannot become a country, it has in the past sometimes achieved it, without sectarian forms of imperialism.  It is a question put to the Muslim Faith of equality of Man and Woman.  No differences existing Christian religions and though axiomatically the Christian Faith is also at times a place of inequality and with divisions not just in having women of Faith practice as Ministers, as leaders of theology, of having the right to marry and remain Priests and that’s the men! there is no singularity or consensus.  This film tackles central women’s oppression through non-religious practice positing itself as of God while denying Gods word and equality amongst all human beings.  It does it in a love thy neighbour way conspicuously and forcefully so it may become in itself recognised as part of the argument. It is indeed a well crafted and brilliantly achieved piece of cinema with many layers and welcome views.

John Graham

4 May 2016

Belfast
At QFT Belfast from Friday 13 May 2016 through to 19 May 2016 . Cert. 15.

Postscript : August 2017.  Easily recognised as a beautiful film dealing with harsh realities in a profoundly effecting way the issues this film draws up are still alarmingly prescient and the terror attacks – from Nice, Paris, London onwards with Barcelona the latest to suffer the awful outcomes tragically killing and maiming innocent people on holiday and actually believing in self improvement and meeting and mixing with different races, their children included, – being so much a part of our present day outlook. A vigilance for harm. The strictures and historical legacy are lost on individuals poorly educated and brainwashed into believing tropes and not thinking for themselves is widespread. The refugee crisis mentioned in the review concerning Greece became worse and false hope was held by me. Italy and other parts of Europe are feeling the effects of unpreparedness and immigration. The monetary fixation on Brexit’s emergence is morphing into, firstly about economic gain and less about self determination (taking back control as nations who are an amalgam themselves of identities) which is a back to basics cry to get back to responsible (not delegated to those EU or wider power interests) is within grasp but under evaluated. In Northern Ireland there is a very poignant, tragic, ironic limbo where one ‘side’, the fundamentalist legacy driven Right, are facing down the arrogant, aggressive almost dictatorial Left; ideological former bomber revolutionaries whose past provided lessons in atrocities now amplified beyond our worst thoughts, so a limbo exists. Within each ‘entrenchment’ are very capable people who tow the ‘party line’ and steadfastly but wrongly adhere to a grouping which despite the clear and blatant history telling, will no budge from its main antagonistic rooted values – values they wrongly pronounce as values of their ‘ancient’ past. They discount the ability to achieve by change every generations aspirations while they remain satisfying their own contentment – on each extreme left/right. It is as Uncle Erol does in the film, I point up his dual personality in the review above. Uncle Erol sees the fallacy of his condition but perpetuates it. It is up to independent individuals to change. Not fix upon a prepared narrative and be unshifting. We are in times when change will become so ‘disturbing’ with advances mainly in AI – which as the period 1985 (the year people take as being the point we began negative Environmental equity – show we are in debt to earths currency henceforth) to 2000 one hundred years of progress was compressed into that time frame. The new scale paradigm means change will compress into proportionally five years per century. It is in all likelihood an immense challenge we need further focus on and educate, take out, the brutality which is destroying in its own hopefully compressed time, our hopes for the future.

August 2017

Son of Saul : A Film Review

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Son of Saul.  A haunting compelling, utterly unflinching embarkation into the Hungarian and Jewish experiences of the Holocaust told by a debut Director and profoundly affecting delivery from the collective ensemble.
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Writer Director: László Nemes. Starring: Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnár, Urs Rechn, Sándor Zsótér. 107 mins. 15 cert.
This a bewildering audaciously confronting examination of the complex trail of events taking those involved into a zombie like zone which cannot be imagined except through desperate experience. It opens a door onto needed understanding in its intention.

It’s beyond comparison

The day I saw this film the report on Hillsborough when the Liverpool fans died of asphyxiation and crushing included a reaction from Bruce Grobbelaar. It was an FA Cup semi final against Nottingham Forest. Asked if he had seen anything like it, after witnessing the dead being brought onto the pitch and him using and directing those carrying bodies to use advertising boards he said it was probably the worst way to die. There was no blood, no shrapnel, no outward sign of death he recalled. There were around fifteen dead bodies he saw straight away being carried onto the pitch. It is as close we can get to imagining the horrific testimony of the Holocaust this film goes into in a telling, partially of the story of those conscripted to act as labourers to carry out the actions surrounding and including the extermination of many thousands in their camp.

1944 bordering on the invisible

The scale is the first striking thing you notice. The invisibility of this so far into the war is incredible.  The almost industrial organisation and manipulation through fear and merciless enforcement put to work to carry out the Holocaust within the forests of Germany and here in South West Poland.  
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Sonnerkommando Auschwitz 

Saul is one of many Sonnerkommando whose job it is to perform the tasks of in the Auschwitz Concentration camp. He is seen firstly shepherding large numbers of people off trains rounded up by the Nazis and transported here. For this film I noticed that children were not asked to take part in these re-enactments though many thousands of children were among those who stepped of these very same trains. It was obviously too horrific a concept to inflict upon children for them to be involved.
Saul is marked by a red X on the rear of his overcoat and he continually wears a cap as it also enables him to be identified. He as a Hungarian is among many fellow men and women from that country who are ‘appropriated’ to carry out the most vile and dehumanising tasks such as disposal of the ‘pieces’ as a human body is known. They are separated in camps by gender also and he in his work is able to, or required to adapt to the work going on in different places. It may be in the gas chambers cleaning out the detritus of left over body waste. Or in the coal house where boilers are stoked to burn to ash the ‘pieces’. He is also able to visit through tasks given, the room where autopsies are performed. The living amongst the dead feel the dead speak to them somehow.
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Intricate and intimate following Saul.

Through this film the camera, hand held and giving mostly head and upper body shots, follows Saul everywhere he goes making the story his exposure and link to all the various things that go on in this Concentration camp. To say it is replicated elsewhere is now known to magnify what we are viewing here. It is the piecing together of the pieces and those people who were alongside the destroyed people. The potency of the images are continually immersive and bring forward a view of the unimaginable. No senses except sight and sound are with us on this viewing encounter. No contact by touch, by smell, by taste is possible so the amplification through those present circumstances are portrayed through elements of imagery such as scarfs, masks in parts of the camp. By following Saul there is a contention being made of the redemptive journey of Saul to Paul in the biblical reading. How is that depicted? It is possibly through the wasteland depicted of life destroyed and treated meaning less and worthless. It is also conceivable that the redemptive journey the film takes is showing how whatever adversity faced Saul is on the journey to become Paul.
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Sweeping along with God

Of all the prisoners in the camp around one hundred are deemed fit to carry out the arduous tasks. They have in effect a stay of execution by co-operating by carrying out assigned work. Otherwise they would be dead and join the others. What is taking place among them is the fulfillment on behalf of the many thousands that pass through this camp; there are one one day around three thousand sent to be massacred. The act is itself one of betrayal once they arrive. The fulfillment of the duties carried out is a defiance of will by the ones left to live in that they all believe in the creator and see this is the work of those who defy Gods word. The judgement on them not the prisoners sweeping up the remains and following instructions.
Despite this retention of belief which is fixed here on Saul and his journey, there come frequently others practicing in secret and discreetly their religion giving memorial those thos e just perished. There are Rabbi celebrants with distinctive appearances both Hungarian and Arabic Hebrew priests. They are a conduit through which this persevering faith is held and exemplified. It is entirely misunderstood by the German Command as baseless worthless and based on sentimental tokenistic beliefs. It is not seen as a vision or life force given and held by these disparate people whose Destiny is defined by their faith and Religion which has brought about their purge. Saul is not a Messiah but a prophet of a kind who has through one act which is central and the purpose of the journey undertaken that of giving a young boy a Jewish burial.

Boy remembered 

The young boy not yet a man, and be is the only child depicted, is the Son of Saul of the title. He has come across him in an extraordinary way as a boy left behind and dead to the world, seeing him as his own son. We learn he is the father but not from his wife who is in a separate part of the camp carrying out storage and domestic duties in the units were clothes valuables and the like are processed. 
To achieve his aim which is commenced in the earlier part of the film he has to obtain the corpse of his son and to find a Rabbi to perform the burial. Both these tasks are seemingly impossible but he puts himself in jeopardy many times to carry out his wishes.
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Principles and hope unextinguished

I thought during the early parts of the film each act taking him away or exposing hi,self bybnot acting as expected or normally he would be spotted very easily but for reasons unclear he navigated virtually ever occasion where it seems he is about to be caught carrying out something which does not fit in with his supposed assigned tasks he escapes the moment to move onto another act of courageous and seemingly foolish risks.
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Conclusion #####5 

This film cuts into your psyche asking phenomenally difficult and prescient questions.  Covering so many aspects of humanity we are stil struggling with the writer director, 38 year old Laszlo Nemes whose first feature film this is.  For a relatively young man he has seen the necessity of putting uncomfortable to say the least of it an on screen examination real dialogue and politically hamstrung forums cannot go or have no possible common embrace, this film gives us a fully extentialist means to embrace the problems and narratives it again unfolds.  It gives them uncompromising stature and directs the viewer into asking themselves to ask more and to confront their hidden constructs and dismantle barriers and walls they have and all have erected to keep these issues – here giving a contrasting compelling reflection on present visited miseries to the necessary wider forums we engage on.

The youth of Laszlo Nemes and his Hungarish nature have compelled him to use his inherently observation editorial and concious skills to provide this directly immersive viewpoint.  We can only thank him for his foresight and insight and hope as he undoubtedly hopes it provides shape and form to current interpretations and avoiding the perils of reductive analysis.  Such is the value of Cinema as an outlet to vent and confront unspeakable things.
John Graham

28 April 2016

Belfast

Son of Saul opens at QFT Belfast http://www.queensfilmtheatre.com on Friday 29 April until Thursday 12 May 2016.

Check above site and other information outlet’s for details of opening times.

The Survivalist : A Film Review

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Writer and Director Stephen Fingleton, 2015, Ire/UK, Cert. 18. Duration 108 mins.  Cast. Martin McCann, Mia Goth, Olwen Fouéré and small plot parts by Andrew Simpson and others.

Entering a Bleak New World

This film was seen with a following q/a with Director Stephen Fingleton, so I begin with an early insight. I had noticed the beginning which is a flashback was a desaturated introduction and then some colour entered although barely making a difference – it was a subtle shift intentionally, confirmed, placed as an indicator distiquishing the following of the flashback as we are taken on a tension filled journey around the environs of a forest in which Martin McCann lives in a wooden shed with corrugated tin roof and among contemporary utensils with a make piece bed and shelving.  He is completely on edge.  He, despite the period he has been here, (more on that and the story later,)  he is still vigilant and carries a two bore musket which is highly serviceable and he also has what might be a shortened Bowie knife.  He is a figure like any frontiersman, hunting daily and without language could be in any forest of the clement kind.  Every day requires the same clarity as the day before.  It is a relentless anxiety.  He is what the French call on the qui vive, on the alert; watchful, and he is his own guardsman with a weather eye for trespassers. Twenty or so minutes pass as we become immersed and familiar with the scope, limited, claustrophobic and insular with little or no awareness of the eight mile horizon which is unseen. Tension is racked up continuosly and his isolation is set.

Polemic

There are few films like this around.  There are very few people in it.  The world the film exists in is a vision of what may transpire beyond a meltdown of our own planets occupation and making, of humans diminishing swiftly and on a downward slope as far as population is concerned.  At the beginning was the word and our planet became one on which mankind foraged and survived across land bridges moving out of areas cut off by the ice age into territories both unfamiliar and unpracticed means of acquiring the nutrition needed to live.  Ireland was a desolate place once and a fusion of two tectonic plates hence the bog land down its centre.  It gave up its forests once occupied for fuel, land, reclaimation and settlement.

The formula, premis is Fingleton coming down on the Collapse side (see obtain the 571 page Jared Diamond book of the same name at cpor.org › Diamond(2005)Collapse-How…) as it is unfolding and clear before 1985 or even earlier we crossed the threshold of planet debt. Stephen Fingleton has the Ulster cynicism gene imprinted meaning his vision is of a collapse scenario. Again I also believe he does not close off a route to recovery, for that is what it shall entail. The best potential for this would be total worldwide empowerment of women which he accepts is one part of the answer. (see also the Chris Martenson book The Crash Course from 2011 and updates for a wide analysis,)   

I attended a talk a day after seeing this which was a concise and very well spelt out analysis with it coming down on the less but ultimately more challenging thought of redress and reining back through advances in population control a lot of which depends on the equality across all nations of women thus could alter the course which would find its level below the present. 10,000 babies an hour added to today’s population. See http://www.garvincrawford.co.uk for a copy of the longer version. The talk will soon be on YouTube.

As illustrated in The Revenant it is very probable the Native American Indian came via. a land bridge along with, as my past review of it raised, their Appolossa horses.  A recent documentary underpins this colossally and with little naysaying, that the Appolossa horse originates, in the time scale of man utilising and forming nomadic connections with, in Kyrgstan and bordering China were they were also plentiful.  To survive there as here required a broad range of skills.

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Huge Narrow Scope

The film begins with a rolling line red and blue signifying population advancing almost vertically come the era of the industrial revolution.  Director Stephen Fingleton then takes his projection of the future as a story, not to say prophecy downward on that trajectory.  Enter the externals, a bit like Margaret Atwoods externals which I later raised with him and he affirmed saying it was a massive influence in writing the story.  There in The Handmaids Tale, read in several different contextual ways all valid, there is a ‘safe’ world where outsiders are used as numbers and for particular functions and within the confines of the ruled ‘safe’ world there are sexual tasks to achieve a continuing product of babies and assist the stability of the Survived.  In the final third others appear as do ghostly reminders of the past.  They serve anonymously to underpin the disease of destructive urges prevalent in hopeless states.  One hand to hand fight is another crossing point.

Meanwhile as is supposed in The Handmaids Tale, there are implied wars existing on the outside and all manner of danger is around.  It is this exterior our characters of a near future period exist within.  For eight years back we are shown in the opening sequence the demise of the brother to brother union and the sacrifice made to survive and then the present post collapse being now what liberals call the new normal is some eight years on in a shed, (it happens to have entirely been filmed in North Antrim and the entire sound track dubbed, itself a very definitive choice.  The soundscape is raw and as light has a surreal incandescence, sometimes beguiling and bewitching the mono soundtrack – there is only one speaker front and central, used in the film performance – a simmering engulfing detail landscape of sound is slowly raised out of the bed of the earth.  No music is used either.  Only a found harmonica and Miljia playing with sound as percussion to show her interior listening heart is conveyed.

Being on guard is for the good reason he is not and cannot be alone.  Someone will come and an encounter happens one day in daylight and he is inside when he hears noises and immediately drops the door bar and locks.  He looks through a tin reflective enough to be a mirror and hazy figures, two women appear to be standing in the middle of his vegetable plot.

Women of Persuasion 

Opening the door he sees two women, both on the limits of starvation.  They are mother and daughter, Kathryn and Milja played by Olwen Fouéré whose striking features of long white hair lean body and softly matured face articulate a knowingness and Mia Goth her screen daughter of an age barely into womanhood.  Her wildness, like the orphan in Les Miserablés and emerging sexuality, her lanky angular awkwardness is open and forming a response to what she sees in this world they now live in.  One where starvation is the norm, where violence happens.  It is where the trees plants flora and fauna are surviving without interruption and Martin McCann’s character, he has no  name in the movie – only names his brother, so we shall call him Orpheus, is asked to provide some of his crop in exchange for firstly trinkets then seeds.  Orpheus makes no demands rejecting what they offer then Kathryn cast up by implication her daughter who is aware of the forthcoming translation and steps forward while Orpheus decides to accept with perfunctoriness the offer.

Seeds are used as perfunctory and commodified trades including bodily fluids as the negotiation just taken place includes a breaking clause.

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A Wooden Bolthole

The three are filmed in the cabin and frank nudity and explicit, perfunctory exchange takes place which summons new reactions and implicit bonds of a joining contract where the three are bound in the survival game.  Orpheus is in charge and his musket a central theme of power.  For her own specific survival and for Milja it is less clear Kathryn what’s to be in charge and to obliterate Orpheus.  To do this will take nerve, conspiracy, swiftness, accuracy, daring and a lot of luck.

This is known as a post event movie and Stephen Fingleton eschews the preconceived barrenness of landscapes here to produce a fecundity of verdant and present forms of life which in his view, as far as mankind is concerned is best expressed, best symbolised by the Inuit tribes and in my own interpretation as a follow-on the Asian Mongolian and Native American nomads whose background was Asian and nomadic life being the link of all.  It transposes as the Ulster Museum struggles to point out a settlement of nomadic types here who became farmers as Orpheus has become.  Here they have and armed struggle group called the Indiegonous Race Etnic Allegiance whose an acronym escapes me.  They are like Peppers Ghost – unlike other dubious armed struggle groups – only appearing at their calling – on stage – deceptively harmful/threatening/pointless and of only fictional preciosity is a-ghastly, flagrantly, inhuman and mythological.

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Other natures

Our planet is challenged is the notion of the film.  Despite the over grave outlook presented by Stephen it is intelligent subterranean almost visceral realism charged with deep emotions of bonding within a family, caring and compassion and love expressed tenderly and unequivocally.  It sanctions goals but they are only to be accepted through agreement.  The narrative places several choices – and it is important to notice these polemic turning points when they subtlety arise.  They throw up questions of mere fate, desire, strength of character and ultimate sacrifice.  At the beginning of this paragraph I alluded to an overload of gravity. Very true. There is an absence of, and wrongly humour, and mere non-visual unspoken longing and bonding.  Only occasionally is there any clue to the bond internally of Orpheus The Survivalist, and Milja.

Milja uses her body to draw them closer as a more perfect bond. The nakedness at times when it’s not part of a earthly comeuppance is in both their state one of celebration of freedom as they bath and have time to breathe.  These times are few and the vocabulary of beauty and existentialist thinking and wondering are virtually minimal as dictates prevail. Nevertheless all thre characters use their bodies as an extra acting device unclothed they are of any time or place or origin giving only identify familiar through bone and flesh shapes.

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This is a tremendous film of quality with a hard path to redeem the ticket and entry to it.  To take in,cab sorb its rough and delicate transience, it’s life force is fragile and starkness of reality is summoned through Survival is uppermost your part of the deal.ccTo engage in its cinematic, provoking challenges.  There is one religious one, of serious contempt, there are bodies corrupted by violence and bloodily as well as the naturalistic settings and their stimuli.


Conclusion ####4

This is a formidable provocative apocalyptic film outside the genre of that overused adj. apocalyptic, it is beyond stereo forms of placement, heavily immersed in monolithic tableaux. Sound is a statement which initially is stronger than the visual as a mechanism of connection.  Then the visually deciphering of The Survivalist himself and how he lives comes in slowly.  In its pace also it moves deliberately slowing our senses down to engage with all its values.  They panoply of choices fighting among the trio is a woman man adventure, a power struggle of equal measure, of natural precedence, meaning nature is the master and cells and skin are interchangeable commodities.  It is, the film, at a cellular molecular level in a lot of aspects and the more you burrow the more you learn or will see.  It is a parable on life’s journey in that sense. It is begging to be seen widely and for the complexities to be drawn out of what appears on the surface only as a simple thriller and contemporary; dystopian and such appendages are not welcomed by either Atwood or Fingleton as the fiction is probably and horrendously contemporaneous as examples such as Isis and they are not alone, show.

One thing Stephen Fingleton mentioned and it features a core thrux of the film is commodity and entity in product which he is viscerally challenged as we all are by.  Except he attempts to make movies about them by I understand distancing himself from those stimuli when escaping (as a Surviavalist might, though without choice to survive this modern animal of entertainment come infortainment.

In for a penny in for a pound.  Except the pound is a barbed wire fence with you on one side and uncivilisation on the other.
I hope it receives the acclaim it deserves and is widely a success given its performances and messages that can be diversely drawn from it.  No reaction will have an equal and as ‘animals’ with a lot in common we continually surprise and alarm.

John Graham

3 February 2016

Belfast

The QFT show the film exclusively before general release around the 12 February 2016 when all sorts of wider audience will be devoured by it!

Their showing QFT is from  Friday 5 February 2016 to 18 February 2016 so it bridges the opening also.

On Friday 5 February Director Stephen Singleton and Martin McCann will be at the QFT screening for a Q/A

On Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 February Director  Stephen  Fingleton and key crew will be at those screenings.

So Stephen has a busy schedule immediately before he goes of to other films and some writing already in the plans ahead.

Go see hopefully with the Q/A elements.

Magpie is a prequel short starring Martin McCann in another guise directed by Stephen Fingleton which he advises is free online to view at the link www.magpieshort.com

Christian values

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
For many this Christmas will bring agonies of choices to be made for their partners, children, friends and relatives as they struggle to survive.
While many come off the streets and into shops filled with stock to buy and spend vast amounts almost wantonly in order to meet a perception of need and express through it love and with it kindness, generosity, those unable to do the same are imprisoned in a societal profligacy and recklessness abandon of Christian values.
Inequality
The poverty is written large and is clear yet the suffering is often borne silently and insensible words and motions are insufficient when the very things cherished, being those closest are themselves awakening to the inequality they are surrounded by.
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Christianity at work
SVP Strategies are effective and personal.
Improving the experience of being helped by the SVP
Here is an extract of what happens from their own account.
Improving the experience of being helped by the SVP
While the majority of research participants had a positive experience of being assisted by the SVP, some had negative experiences. A lack of information about what to expect during a visit; the stigma associated with receiving assistance; and frequent questioning about the household circumstances were less positive aspects of being helped by SVP.
The home visitation experience could be improved if SVP ensures that:
• More Conferences begin to use the SVP Client Case Management System to record information about the households they are assisting. This system can then be checked prior to a visit being carried out, and can be updated following a visit, ensuring that members have easy access to the most up to date information about the household circumstances
• Members communicate clearly with the household about what takes place during a visit; how the household is assessed; and what kind of help may be available
• Members bear in mind that help is often sought as a last resort, when
a situation may be at crisis point and that most people are very reluctant to ask for help and may be embarrassed or upset at having reached the point of contacting SVP
• Members ask directly if the household needs help with specific things, such as food, school costs, costs of childcare or children’s sports or activities and so on, as many of those who participated in the research found it difficult
to ask for the specific things that they needed
• The high levels of loneliness and isolation experienced by many of the research participants and the importance of the visit and chat with SVP members in alleviating some of this loneliness are borne in mind
• Members recognise the stresses and adversities being experienced in households
• One parent families are aware of and supported to access supports and services in their locality which may be of benefit to them
• The parents being visited can have treats for themselves from time to time. A trip to the hairdresser, a sports event or even just the opportunity to go out for a coffee and have some time to themselves can make a difference
.
Foreboding
Across continents Christmas comes with war and lack of food or shelter. Many nations are so destabilised by governance death and infanticide are unbearably prevalent and never ending. These people are the real poor and some come out of poverty with such resolve and confidence it is seen to be a place where reparations can be made.
Unnatural survival
Our nation and circumstances are nevertheless rejectable because worse exists elsewhere but a reminder of certain values becoming universal and instruments of God and free will. No deflection or erosion of the inner self can be done by poverty alone but it brings down its nature to bear on mankind of all races.
Pandemic
Within the cities are addicts with drug problems and the fallout of remorseless greed and avarice of the era where cocaine reached and reaches places where it was consumed with plentiful abandon and when risk of drugs was greater than rewards of business where it was an easy addiction to acquire.
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https://www.christiansdrugrehab.com/christian-addiction-treatment/
http://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Urgent-Care/LocationSearch/0
http://www.uk-rehab.com/rehab/county-antrim-detox-clinic.htm
All areas of the UK are covered with the exception of the US based ChristianRehab connection. More locally the SVP charity gives incredible support and direction to sufferers.
This report is part of the work.
https://www.svp.ie/getattachment/0dfc3b0e-9165-4792-946e-43f84199eb57/It-s-The-Hardest-Job-in-The-World.aspx
These are a few of the icebreaker care paths you should take and make sure someone knows what level of despair you may have reached.
Hard times
Now the hard addictions are being faced as Heroin and other highs have entangled lives across the island with its massive impact of health problems accompanying the overdoses and general dependency effects materialising once a needle is injected.
Modern society has opened up new consumptions and addictions which are symptoms of the core infliction of absence of faith and belief in the self or of any external guidance.
Choices
Whenever anyone finds themselves over this Christmas in such a lonely place and driven to behave recklessly towards addictions of one sort or another they should seek help and in themselves call upon their faith in themselves which they once will have known and take in the thought of God being beside them in whatever shape or form they have known and need now in the dark times.
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Beside you
God is beside each and everyone of us and this message is needed by all which is why it is so important a ritual and tradition. It highlights not only the need for others, the essential human values we desire and need but it points out starkly that some people need our help and it may be ourselves asking for that.

Mental Health Care
Another source of help with regard to depression and general mental health and well being would be the charity Niamh (Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health)
I didn’t know this but they have across Northern Ireland a whole number of local centres which deal with things from Homelessness to post natal depression and have a wide range of care experience.
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This just a snapshot of the Beacon website and as you can see the spread of work is extensive.
Another one of those charities needing support and whose work fills the holes which is the responsibility of central government to shoulder.
Sense
The realisation of others strengths and weaknesses is there to be seen and though there is a complete theatre of distraction and devices making the messages unclear and uncertain the underlying tradition and specific retention of good over evil is nonetheless present.
Industrial Walls
Within the walls of every country it has the same effect. Deprivation and inequality of life. From households which the following survey accounts in figures for a rich nation, there are other figures for resources held by companies and corporations which outstrip the financial worth of some countries. They are not profiting mankind but hoarding the means to alleviate all poverty and redress the imbalances for a future which requires rapid change.
Emphatic
This is recent statistical information deciphered by the Equality Trust, Director Duncan Exley.
from the ONS annual report on British Household wealth
Office of National Statistics.
The richest 10% of households are worth just under £5 trillion – 45% of the total – and have seen their wealth increase by a fifth between the 2010-12 and 2012-14, when the latest survey was conducted.

Their combined fortune is 875 times more than the poorest 10% of households who have less than half of 1% overall. I will put that again – the 10% poorest have less than 1/2 % of overall wealth.

It means the average household in this bottom 10% is worth £12,600. That compares to £225,100 across all households, rising to more than £1 million in the top 10% and nearly £2.9 million for the richest of all.

Property and pensions account for the bulk of what people are worth, around three – quarters of average household’s wealth. But, said the ONS, that wealth is heavily concentrated in the South East of England and London in particular.
Wanton
On a sideline note – Wang Jianlin, a Chinese citizen whose wealth is east-imated, sorry estimated at more than £20 billion, has bought a house in Kensington Palace Gardens for £80 million. It’s not in the finest of condition or to his palatial taste and he has not moved in as it will have millions more spent renovating it and making sure it’s nine bathrooms, grand entertaining rooms, indoor swimming pool are fit to inhabit.

In Britain his business concerns include Dorset based, Sunseeker Yachts.
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Morality is not our prisoner.
Gods retribution is akin to a forgiveness and Yeats saw this if I use a phrase of his obliquely – ‘the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity‘ beir bua. Or that being applied is actually in reference to division. To Theology retribution is held the meaning – the distribution of rewards and punishments in a future life, is thereafter.

In religious terms it is left to God and the word is – quite literally – apocatastasis.
The meaning of which is – the state of being restored or reestablished; restitution.
the doctrine that Satan and all sinners will ultimately be restored to God.

Also, apokatastasis.

The ‘being left to’ is a philosophy of human life being unable to answer for others but to do their utmost to forgive which can be done I suppose through education and awareness for the sinner
Within and without oneself.
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It references also into Universalism.
Preparing for our future
Into a more rational God.
More than is combative. Reaching toward is less so. Holding out hope is what faith is and portends awareness not certainty.
Prayerfulness
Our love commences with love and remembrance of Christ his son as we take that into our own giving and seeking of love. That we remember the love first given by God.
Prayer is a return to God in the person you are, knowing it is through Him the word.

In the Hymn Just as I am by Charlotte Elliott who wrote it having told a Minister she was not worthy of becoming a Christian was told that she should come as you are.
That is wisdom through simplicity and is the first thing to place you faith in.
The understanding of God.
Is the simplest and most powerful thing.

Just as I am without one plea. by Charlotte Elliott

Just as I am without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, tho’ tossed about,
With many a conflict, many a doubt
Fighting within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind,
sight, riches, healing of the mind
Yes, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve,
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God I come, I come!

Just as I am Thy love unknown,
Hath broken every barrier down,
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

John Graham

22 December 2015

Belfast

Sent from my iPad