Richard Harris Film Festival: ‘The Field’


Amy O’ Connor reports from the wrap-up of the 2014 Richard Harris International Film Festival and took in screenings of The Field and Starred Up.

Nestled amongst the quiet bank holiday weekend-streets of Limerick, the 2014 Richard Harris International Film Festival took place. The 26th of October saw the festival wrap up its adoration for the iconic Limerick born actor Richard Harris by a morning screening of one of his most acclaimed works, The Field.

The Field is a 1990 drama, directed by Jim Sheridan, whose other film work also includes renowned Irish films My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father. The Field is an adaptation of Irish literary John B. Keane’s play of the same name.

The play and film tell the story of a segment of Irish farmer Bull McCabe’s life in Connemara, Ireland. Bull has rented a particular field from a widow for most of his life – a field that is steeped in family history and tradition. He has nurtured the pasture from rock to fruitful soil and looks upon it as his own “child”. When an American comes to the town of Carraigthomond to create infrastructure and wants to buy the land, a simple solution turns into a violent and intimidating tale that will linger in the air of the town indefinitely.

Richard Harris’ performance coupled with that of his co-stars Sean Bean, Brenda Fricker, John Hurt and Tom Berenger allow for a captivating tale to ensue. Each character so pertinently cast that the viewer feels as if this is a story of Irish history that has really happened. The themes and underlying laws of the era all aptly portray the ways of 1960s Ireland. A disgust for “outsiders” following the Great Irish Famine and a life based on the values of patriarchy are all elements of The Field that write the notes of Irish history into the storyline.

They say that classics are so because nobody bothers with them. However, The Field is one classic that is as popular now as it ever was and it isn’t difficult to understand why.

After lunch, Harris’ sons, Jared and Jamie, along with his granddaughter, Ella Harris, joined the collection of people at the Belltable Arts Centre to celebrate the life and work of their father and Ella’s grandfather.

Jared Harris gave a speech thanking the members of the festival for honouring his father and his work in a city that he once called home. They all highlighted the fact that they were happy to be included in the festival and that they hope it will continue to thrive for many years.

The festival was wrapped up with a screening of the 2013 crime drama Starred Up, which features Jack O’ Connell as the protagonist. Jack comes from Irish heritage, with his father John Patrick O’ Connell hailing from Kerry.

This gritty drama depicts Eric Love’s (Jack O’ Connell) early days in prison after being transferred from a juvenile facility. He faces all of the hellish prison conflicts and threats only to find some solace in a group therapy session. Eric’s dad Neville, played by Ben Mendelsohn, rests in a cell above Eric and attempts to control his actions within the prison grounds through his use of contacts and close relationships with the prison wardens. The juxtaposition of the cells of Eric and his father try to reiterate the seemingly dominant role of Neville throughout the film.

Directed by David Mackenzie and scripted by Jonathan Asser, the film takes memories from Asser’s experiences working as a voluntary therapist with extremely violent criminals in a prison and puts them on the big screen.

Tension and violence hums throughout the film, with O’ Connell’s unique acting talent shining throughout. The drama intensifies as the characters and plot deepen and the film takes the viewer on a violent and defensive journey that they might not have felt the reality of before.

After another successful year, the Richard Harris International Film Festival was then concluded and a reception for those involved, which took place at the Curragower seafood bar to congratulate all involved on the efforts made to honour the late Richard Harris and to once again highlight his brilliant work as an actor and also as a crafted storyteller.



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