We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – The Field

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of…

We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film


The Field

(Jim Sheridan, 1990)

‘… Sheridan takes Ireland’s post-colonial past as its motif by means of its iconic terrain…’

Tess Motherway

In an interview with Jim Sheridan marking the twentieth anniversary of his famous adapation of John B. Keane’s 1966 play, he reflected on the modest success of the film in America stating ‘…America and elsewhere don’t get the concept of farming the land for somebody else… it is medieval to them, a foreign concept.’ (Moon, Aileen, ‘Jim Sheridan Talks About ‘The Field’’) Land ownership; that historic and most quintessential of Irish problems.

In The Field, Sheridan takes Ireland’s post-colonial past as its motif by means of its iconic terrain – drenched in the wilds of the west coast, the setting is at once romantic, a place of idyl, at times almost harking back to Ford’s The Quiet Man in sentimentality – a working place of purpose and sustainability. We are drawn into the landscape, invited to understand The Bull’s (Richard Harris) inertia regarding the land.

Conversely, it is also the setting of terrible violence, suspicion and anger, a lost place, steeped in the memory of Ireland’s past. For The Bull, the field acts as a double-edged sword, a provider and source of security, but also a tormentor – the divisive wedge between himself and his family and, ultimately, leading to his own mental decline. Sheridan utilises the landscape to translate these conflicts – the heavy stone, gushing river and violent storms – exaggerating the elements in order to optimise tension and climax. Purposefully devoid of time and place, Sheridan’s Ireland is the Ireland of nowhere and everywhere, and, unable to accept a changing Ireland, The Bull plays out these post-colonial demons, and the field provides the stage.

‘There’s another law stronger than the common law …. The law of the land.’

Today, Ireland continues its struggle with the land, but in a very different way. Irish cinema has always echoed this and, as with countless works of Irish art to date, land and landscape continue to be potent subject-matter. The Field is no exception and, twenty two years on, its impact is no less powerful.

Tess Motherway

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