Monday, 13 October 2014

Cast a cold eye

Seeing Calvary last week has sent me back to other literary and theological sources, which is an unusual feat for a film, and I’m not just picking up the title’s signal that we are dealing with hills at which good Christian sacrificial death takes place.  I apologise for a post which won’t make much sense to those who haven’t seen the film.  I’d like to know much more about how John Michael McDonagh, both screen writer and director, developed it.
For example, the cross between The Power and the Glory and Father Ted seems quite explicit.  The Brendan Gleeson priest could walk from Calvary into The Power and the Glory without breaking his stride, and his whiskey, his in-part-abandoned daughter and his fate are just some of the identity he would take from one to the other.  It is almost as if McDonagh was asking how The Power and the Glory might look in a post-abuse-scandal Ireland rather than an anti-Catholic Mexico.

The David Wilmot priest with whom he shares a Clergy House, however, could be parachuted into Father Ted without anyone spotting the join, so much so that I suspected that this was a knowing joke.  This priest is one of the stock characters presented as a foil for the Brendan Gleeson priest.  Others seemed to be there simply to represent everything from appetite for adultery and atheism to appetite for murder and post-abuse scandal suspicion - and then disappear again.

More than that, several appeared to be there to voice one aspect of the New Atheist / problem-of-suffering debate - in some cases before they simply disappeared again as well.

And still more than that, the second star of the film appeared to be Ben Bulben, the distinctive mountain never referred to but often visible as the action takes place under it.  Since Under Ben Bulben is Yeats’ final poem, was McDonagh picking up some of Yeats’ characters (‘Sing the peasantry, and then / Hard Riding country gentlemen, / The holiness of monks, and after / Porter-drinkers’ randy laughter’)?  Or his commission (‘Poet and sculptor, do the work, / Nor let the modish painter shirk / What his great forefathers did. / Bring the soul of man to God, / Make him fill the cradles right’)?

This is probably only half of it, so it is all very exhausting before one tries to follow through other strands such as the suicide theme or ask ‘Who did kill the dog then?’.

The picture is a further one from Alton last week.


Joy Davis said...

You were right Peter; have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, but curiosity is aroused so am off to Google to find out.

Joy Davis said...

Have found it on Amazon 'Love film' rental, so will await it's eventual arrival. Now will go read some more about it

Anonymous said...

Haven't the slightest, Joy. But then I'm an American and what do we know? I hope Peter will explicate.
Sounds like a couple of good films if I knew how to download them.

Jim of Olym

Peter Mullins said...

I'm sorry to mystify. Often these posts are just personal notes for me, but I do usually try harder to make them self evidently understandable to others. But, yes, do get to see the film if you can! Some of this might begin to look slightly more understandable after that. It isn't the first bit of writing with one or two complex and carefully observed characters at its centre and lots of one dimensional characters around it - I've just reread a critique of 'Pride and Prejudice' which says much the same of it.