The Irish Film Festival London has been presenting the latest and greatest of Irish Film and Animation to a London audience since 2011. This year Harrison Drury attended the festival to see how it promotes the best of Irish creative talent in the UK.
Here Harrison reports from the second night’s screening of Pat Collins’Silence, with the director participating in a post-screening Q&A, plus a screening of Ruth Meehan’s short Men and Women.
Silence, Pat Collins’ meditation on the themes of sound and silence, history, memory and exile, brought Ireland’s pure green countryside to Hammersmith, last Thursday, 21st November 2013 for the Irish Film Festival London.
Sound recordist Eoghan (Eoghan MacGiolla Bhride), returns to Ireland, after many years, on a job capturing noises in areas free from man-made sound.
He seems to represent migration, and the empty silence; the depopulation of the countryside.
He is like a monk on a pilgrimage with his long hair and beard or even a wizard. He wanders alone through the woods and over the bleak yet beautiful landscape. He has a heightened sense of hearing, achieved through a microphone and a pair of headphones.
The sound in his headphones makes up the soundtrack, for the most part. This trick lets the audience in on his world where everything is amplified. Cars sound like spaceships, the wind like howling ghosts and the sea like a tempest.
At points the sound seems to come from his memories too, swirling in and out into extended silences in a style similar to Terrence Malick.
Collin also holds a shot, like Malick, capturing the way the wind blows in the grass or the rain falls on the water.
Collins likened the experience to prayer and there is something spiritual about it. As Eoghan is seeking out areas free from man-made sound he is effectively seeking out solitude. He seems lonely, desolate even. And when he finds relative silence and with it solitude, it became uncomfortable to watch. It was as though the place he was in physically reflected the place he was in spiritually. So, his physical search for these areas may be seen as a spiritual search as well, but for what?
Collins commented: “It’s about yourself, a younger version of yourself or of how can people can lose touch with themselves.”
I am aware this all sounds a little vague but it was, and I think that was the intention of the filmmakers.
Collins cited “Abbas Kiarostami the Iranian filmmaker and he has this theory of a half-made film and in a way that was kind of a thing that we wanted to explore. The audience would have to bring themselves to the story.”
Silence successfully explores this theory in that it is half-made or unfulfilled. Unfulfilled in the sense it alludes to various themes but does not explore them in earnest. It is also so slow. Though this all contributes to the meditative qualities of a very beautiful film.
Silence was preluded by Ruth Meehan’s Men and Women, a sombre piece about an unhappy couple over the Christmas of 1979.
This short film is shown through the eyes of their nine-year-old Roisin (Sophie Scully), and also with her eyes which grow cold as her own tragedy of lost innocence plays out.
Sad and gloomy, Men and Women has been put together delicately by Meehan. Subtle scenes direct the audience while not spelling it out for them. There are well judged performances all round but Scully steals the show.
Based on a short story of the same name from Clare Keegan’s award-winning collection Antarctica.
The Irish Film Festival London took place 20th – 24th November 2013