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Sunday Movie: ‘The Eclipse’ (2009) (Ireland Month)

The final movie I decided to watch as part of the Reading Ireland Month, hosted by Cathy746books and The Fluff Is Raging, is The Eclipse.

Directed by Conor McPherson and realeased in 2009, The Eclipse is a pretty difficult movie to talk about. Taking place in a beautiful and misty Irish seaside town, Cobh, the movie relates the story of Michael Farr who, after losing his wife (due to an illness possibly, though the circumstances are never really explained) has to learn how to adjust his life and take care of his two children. While volunteering in a literary festival organised in the town, he meets Lena Morelle, a successful novelist, whose work mainly centers around ghosts and supernatural experiences.

As Michael’s father also might be approaching death soon, he starts having some supernatural experiences himself, seeing the ghost of his father in unexpected places. Trying to deal with all of that, Michael also needs to confront Nicholas Holden, another novelist who has arrived in town for the festival, claiming Lena’s attention.

The movie is visually beautiful, showing some very pretty and magical landscapes of town Cobh. I keep on repeating in my posts for Ireland Month that Ireland is simply the most ideal place for such gothic and ghost stories to take place. The overall atmosphere of the movie, too, was rather haunting and mysterious, contributing to the plot in each own unique way. The pace of the movie was slow, and I could even say that it was a pretty quiet movie (apart from the few jump-scare scenes that were scattered here and there), but it all worked in a positive manner to the end result. It felt to me like a very ‘Ireland-like’ movie, if that makes any sense at all.

However, I felt that the movie was trying to be too many things at once, but ending up being none. The horror elements were too few for it to be called a horror movie, the romance was there but not really, and some more aspects of the movie could have been developed and emphasised a lot more.

Despite all that, it still was an enjoyable movie, and I’m glad I got to see yet another part of Ireland through it.

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Sunday Movie: ‘Calvary’ (2014) (Ireland Month)

The next movie I watched as part of the Reading Ireland Month, hosted by Cathy746books and The Fluff Is Raging, is also a movie I was pretty reluctant to watch – Calvary.

I am not very much into religious movies or movies generally dealing with religious themes (thus my initial reservation to watch Calvary), but I never expected this movie to be what it actually was. It is quite hard to place my thoughts on it, since it not only exceeded my expectations, but it also is a much deeper and much more symbolic movie than one might expect.

Calvary begins in the most unexpected manner; while in a confessional, a parishioner relates his tragic past to priest James, confiding in him that he had been sexually abused by some priest in his childhood and threatens to kill priest James as an act of revenge towards the church, even though he is innocent and benevolent. The parishioner gives the priest exactly one week to make peace with himself and say his goodbyes until he kills him on the appointed day and place.

This is what happens in the first 5 minutes of the movie, which place the priest, as well as the audience in such an unexpected and difficult situation. The rest of the movie follows the priest’s life through each and every day of the week he was given and we watch his actions and the decisions he makes. We steadily learn more about him and his past and meet the people that consist his world and surroundings – Fiona, his daughter, as well as a bunch of parishioners, all broken and lost in some way or another, whom he tries to help overcome their problems one by one.

However, the priest is not always treated generously by the others. At first, I found his passive acceptance of the threat he received really strange – it was almost like he thought he was at fault for something, like he somehow deserved it. Maybe he had committed a sinful act in the past and desired to repent for it by not running away from the man who declared that he would take his life away. While the movie progressed, though, the benevolence and the good-natured heart of the priest became evident and the behaviour of the parishioners towards him became more and more illogical. Everyone makes mistakes throughout life, either minor or graver ones, and we do see the priest misbehaving at parts, but no one deserves to be the object of such spite.

Every character in this movie has their story and their own painful past (or present). Everyone is going through their own personal calvary, but the priest seems to suffer the most. The ending is surely one that triggers a lot of thoughts to rush through your mind all at once. The priest claimed at the beginning that he knew who his threatener was, and he did try, in his own way, to prevent him from commiting yet another sin.

I am not entirely sure of the exact location this movie was shot and set into, but the scenery was absolutely stunning. The Irish coast lines always look so beautiful, and combined with a rather cloudy weather, created the perfect ominous feeling in this movie. The setting was mostly simple, and not many props or background objects were used, with nature and the sea playing a major role and reflecting the pain and the psychological state of the characters in the most excellent manner.

The acting was also sublime. Brendan Gleeson was simply brilliant as priest James – I will certainly watch more of his movies to see him enacting other roles as well (I’m sure he does it equally successfully). I was very glad to see some familiar faces in it, like Aidan Gillen, whom I know from Game of Thrones, playing the role of an atheist doctor and Dylan Moran, whom I immensely adore, playing the role of a lonely millionaire who feels detached from everything. The rest of the cast was fabulous as well.

All in all, Calvary is a beautiful and brilliant movie that touches upon many issues modern societies and people face, whether they dare to admit it or not. It is a movie that shows you that everyone goes through their own personal calvary, even if you cannot see it at first glance. Everyone has their own troubles and demons to fight and, at the end of the day, it is the way we choose to face them or run away from them that determines our morality and quality of life.

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Sunday Movie: ‘The Secret of Kells’ (2009) (Ireland Month)

The second movie coming from Ireland I decided to watch for the Ireland Month, hosted by Cathy746books and The Fluff Is Raging, is ‘The Secret of Kells’, an animated movie. I know this is kind of an unpopular choice, but I stumbled upon a mention of this film at a blog, and I was immediately drawn by the fabulously looking animation – I really love animated movies and the prospect of watching an Irish one just seemed alluring enough for me to include it in here.

The film is actually a co-production among France, Belgium and Ireland (I guess it still counts as an Irish film?) and it was screened at the 59th Berlin International Film Festival. It has been nominated for quite a few awards and it has won numerous of them, being very positively talked about by critics. Some even compared it to Miyazaki films by Studio Ghibli.

Even though the film is quite short even for an animated one (hardly 80 minutes long), it still manages to captivate the audience, mainly with its stunning animation. Brandon, the main character of the story, is a little boy who grows up in the Abbey of Kells along with his uncle, Abbot Cellach, and other monks. His uncle is trying to build a wall around their town, so as to protect it from the Vikings, who have been invading and destroying many other places in search of gold. Brandon has been forbidden by his uncle to step outside the wall and into the forest that exists there, because danger is lurking. However, when Brother Aidan arrives at Kells and has Brandon help him with the completion of his book, the Book of Iona, he ventures into the forest despite his uncle’s orders.

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In the forest, he meets a fairy girl, Aisling, who offers him her help in his endeavours. No matter how important the completion of the Book of Iona is, though, the imminent attack of the Vikings is approaching slowly, threatening the peace of Kells and the lives of its inhabitants.

What amazed me in this film (apart from the beautiful animation, which I will keep on praising throughout this post) was the brilliant blend of magic, Celtic mythology and history and a quite solid plot with very interesting characters. The Book of Kells truly existed – it was a Gospel book in Latin and it was located in Dublin and the film draws on the story of its creation. As a mythology enthusiast, I found the existence of fairies, mythical creatures like Crom Cruach and many other allusions to Irish mythology and history greatly entertaining and highly interesting.

The use of colours was also very nicely done, as brighter colours were chosen when scenes of bliss and happier moments were introduced (like in the forest) and darker and gloomier ones when there was apparent danger or something ominous was happening or about to happen. I also loved the music playing during the film, as the Celtic inspired instruments suited the magical atmosphere really well.

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‘The Secret of Kells’ was a film truly beautiful. The astonishing art, along with the brilliant music and the engaging plot make for a movie that is aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable. I am so glad I decided to watch it, and I highly recommend it to any of you who enjoy beautifully made films.

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Sunday Movie: ‘The Commitments’ (1991) (Ireland Month)

Having searched a lot about which Irish movies to watch for Ireland Month, I decided to start off by watching one of the most well-known Irish films (or at least I presume it is, since it was featured in most of the lists I found), The Commitments. Directed by Alan Parker in 1991, this movie is an adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s novel The Commitments.

The film is set in Dublin and it follows the endeavours of of a young Irishman, Jimmy, who, being tired of listening to the same Irish music again and again, aspires to make a world famous soul band comprised entirely by Irish people. When trying to decide the genre of music his band will be playing, he indicatively says that he chose soul music, since Irish are ‘the black people of Europe’. The band is made up of people who are completely different from each other, yet they all share a common dream of becoming famous and making it big in the music industry. Overcoming most of the shortcomings that they face, the band achieves to successfully perform on stage and gain some recognition. However, things are not as simple as they may seem.

I have to admit this film was not what I initially expected. There were a lot of comedic elements in it, which helped alleviate the heavy atmosphere that might have been created by all the hurdles of each character’s life that we came to witness. I feel that not enough time was given to develop all of the characters or at least to let the viewer create a more stable image of and relationship with the characters. I liked the fact that everyone had a bad (and at times really bad) side to them, and that was revealed steadily throughout the film.

Since it is a rather old movie now, I doubt the images of Dublin shown and how people’s lives were depicted are similar to those of today. However, it was really nice taking a glimpse into the Dublin of the ’90s and seeing how people made it through the day or how they spent their time. I feel, though, that if I was more familiar with and accustomed to some more Irish cultural elements, I would have enjoyed this film a lot more.

The Commitments is a film full of music, people mainly from the working class who struggle to make a difference, people different from one another and some really unexpected views of Dublin. Usually, films like this are a hit or miss, and even though I didn’t love the film, I certainly enjoyed watching it and gaining a view of Irish life I would be unaware of otherwise.

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Sunday Movie: ‘The Imitation Game’ (2014)

Last Wednesday I went to the cinema with a friend in order to celebrate the end of our exam period and we decided to watch ‘The Imitation Game’. One of the main reasons I wanted to watch this movie was, of course, Benedict Cumberbatch (who was utterly brilliant in this) but the entire movie itself proved to be a masterpiece as well.

‘The Imitation Game’ is set during the World War II and it centers around the attempts of Great Britain and the Allies to break the mysterious code which the Nazis used to communicate and transfer important messages and information among them, called the ‘Enigma’. This impossible-looking project is assigned to a mathematician, Alan Turing (played by Cumberbatch), who is a genius in his field, as well as in solving puzzles and decoding various secret messages.

The story alternates between past and present narratives, and so we have a more kaleidoscopic perspective of the events unfolding throughout the movie. The present narrative is set some years after the war and the entire Enigma project is presented as a narrated flashback. We also get to see some moments from Alan Turing’s early adolescent years, which aids considerably in gaining a better understanding of his character and how he came to be the person he was.
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I don’t want to let out too much information on the film, as even the pettiest detail could take away the full enjoyment of this film, but I strongly recommend everyone to watch it. Apart from the main plot, this movie deals with a plethora of other (mostly social) issues, and it allows you to observe and contemplate how people in these years handled them, as some of them are quite shocking and rather disturbing.

The acting was exquisite and I could find no actor participating in the film that this wouldn’t apply to. Benedict Cumberbact was simply excellent in his role and his portrayal of Alan Turing certainly leaves you a long lasting impression. Keira Knightly was also brilliant in her role as Joan Clarke, the only woman participating in the project, as well as pretty much all the rest of the cast. The photography, the soundtrack and the ambience created were marvelous as well, as they captured the general environment and atmosphere of the era in the most brilliant way possible.

Since this movie is based on true events, the ending is, to say the least, realistic and greatly touching. It definitely is a thought-provoking movie, that has me thinking about it days after watching it. If you haven’t done so yet, I would highly recommend you to watch this movie.