Irish Week continues and has surreptitiously seeped into my
private life shoes.
Let’s stay with the visuals for a moment, if you don’t mind. No, not my feet *ugh*. But you might like to see some more of Connemara, and guess what – that’s not very difficult. Because Pilgrimage is certainly not the first production to have discovered the beauty of Connemara as a backdrop for a film. The film industry in general has been pretty good in Ireland. Due to some very generous tax incentives, Ireland managed to attract a number of productions to Ireland, particularly in the 1990s and 2000s, even when the plots were not even set in Ireland. Braveheart (1995) is one such example, entirely filmed here, but set in Scotland. Bits and pieces of Ireland turn up in quite a few films – particularly the stunning Cliffs of Moher on the West coast of Ireland (slightly further South from Connemara), which feature in The Princess Bride (hello FrauvonElmDings!) and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. And yes, Mr Armitage’s turn as Ricky Deeming in the George Gently series, was also filmed here, albeit on the East coast of Ireland, near Dublin.
But back to Connemara. I’d like to give you a few suggestions for further cinematographic exploration of the area. The spectacular scenery of Connemara, was first used in the 1950s for the eternal classic The Quiet Man by John Ford, featuring John Wayne. Thankfully, the Oscar-winning film was shot in colour, so the beauty of the landscape can be seen in all its glory. The film is still being exploited for the sake of tourism – it’s quite present here. You can find it full-length on Youtube, but I would rather like to show you a clip from the evening TV news of the Irish state broadcaster. This says so much about Ireland, in just 4 minutes…
Yes, the word “parochial” comes to mind *ggg*.
On to more recent outings of Connemara in film. The home-grown and critically acclaimed adaptation from a John B. Keane drama, The Field, is a must-see. It was a resounding success, both in Ireland and outside. No wonder, the lead is played by Irish hellraiser Richard Harris, a character larger than life. Or *possibly* more interesting to you for a fresh-faced Sean Bean as the son to Harris’s father? Don’t be discouraged by the diddly-eye music in the trailer. It is a look at Irish history, contained in the bidding war for the eponymous field, and a look at the harsh realities of life in historic Ireland.
Similarly harrowing was 1996 film Into the West, the story of two Traveller children, living in the “slums” of Dublin (yes, they existed), searching for their own paradise. Which, incidentally, is portrayed by Connemara. Addressing issues such as the discrimination of the travelling community, as well as alcoholism and child neglect, the film is nonetheless very funny in parts. Again, a critical success, and with Gabriel Byrne to boot.
Did you know that the legend of Tristan and Isolde is played out in Ireland? All too fitting then, that the glitzy 2006 film adaptation was made in Connemara. Apart from multi-talented James Franco in the title role, and Rufus Sewell in support, you’ll recognize Isolde as RA’s former Spooks cast-mate Sophia Myles. Quite a few beautiful Connemara glimpses in the trailer:
So much for Connemara on film. If you want to watch contemporary Irish drama on film, stay away from stage-Irish, twee comedies such as Waking Ned Devine. They may be funny, but quite honestly, it’s a bit insulting to see all those Irish stereotypes, from brogue to thatched cottages. Even international success PS. I love you (written by our former Prime Minister’s daughter, for feck’s sake) doesn’t properly steer away from the pastiche happy-go-lucky leprechaun Irish
male. Hmph. Irish films which I have really enjoyed in the past few years are Parked with Colm Meany (Star Trek) and Colin Morgan (Merlin), the tragic story of two drop-outs who connect, and Garage, the heartbreaking tale of a mentally disabled, but harmless guy whose mistake leads to tragedy.
PS: Still wondering what Irish topic Mr Armitage has on the back-burner for a future film project in this country??? Come on, RA, give us a clue!!! And please, while you are here, could you please give a few interviews to Irish media? Or is no one asking? Hell, *I* will interview you, if no one wants to speak to you. No mimicking the Irish accent, though! ❤
ETA: PPS: Forgot to add this: If you want more info on Connemara film sets, there is a great pdf by Discover Ireland on the Connemara Film Trail here.