The Stag is released today in Irish cinemas. John Butler’s comedy follows a bachelor party weekend in the great outdoors that takes some unexpected detours. The film stars Andrew Scott, Hugh O’Conor, Brian Gleeson and Peter McDonald, who co-wrote the script with Butler.
Gemma Creagh caught up with the film’s director, and its stars Andrew Scott and Peter McDonald at the recent Jameson Dublin Film Festival for On the Reel in association with Film Ireland.
The film closed this year’s festival and Gemma was there on the red carpet to find out more about the film and what it’s like for a load of men to be in the nip on a weekend away.
Anthony Assad takes a look at Brendan Muldowney’s second feature, which screened at the 2014 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.
Ian (Robert de Hoog) is an enigma trapped in a defective human shell. As a child he witnesses his father’s last breath, his bereavement stalls in isolation and he descends into a morbid fascination with his own mortality. Life goes on but death seems to follow him everywhere so that when his mother kills herself he decides it’s about time to end his own life. Just as he has narrowed down the means and the smoke from his car’s exhaust pipe begins to enter his lungs he’s interrupted by a van of individuals that pull over to prep their own suicide. Curiosity leads him towards them and finding the ethereal corpse of a teenage girl sparks a dangerous love affair with the dying and the dead.
If this all sounds a tad grim so far that’s because it is, one would expect no less from an adaptation of Kei Oishi’s necrophilia-laden novel Loving the Dead but the real surprises shine through writer/director Brendan Muldowney’s spirited treatment of the material. A sense of unease pervades through much of these early scenes however and when Ian begins to routinely scope out women on the verge of suicide, so that he can acquire their corpses for company, you could be forgiven for thinking there’s no hope nor humanity to be had.
He props them up around his seaside abode, arranges meals for them, bathes them and even engages in conversation but when they begin to decompose Ian is forced to engage with the real world again to find fresh company. It is in the means to this end, however, that he begins to slowly come out of his self-imposed shell most notably with Tina played tenderly by Amanda Ryan. Her spritely demeanour offsets Ian’s sombre stoicism and their odd couple pairing adds some comedic relief which Muldowney proffers with commendable discretion. They listen to songs on the radio, dine together and drown their sorrows in champagne so that when the time comes, brutal as it is, you get a sense that Tina has imparted some life into Ian and that he has perhaps lost more than he’s gained when only her body remains.
Nature takes its course and Tina is duly discarded when Ian sets his sights on Naomi (Pollyanna McIntosh) who’s struggling to cling to life after her son dies in an accident. Ian is drawn to her energy and her sense of living life on the edge ramps up the size and scope of their scenes adding a welcome change of pace and atmosphere as we wonder to what their pairing will lead.
The fact that Ian pursues women exclusively raises cause for concern initially and the intimate behaviour that follows could easily be construed as sexual objectification. Thankfully, however, the liberties Muldowney and co. take avoid the pitfalls of the book so that the women in Love Eternal emerge as the real stars and savours of the piece. Their lives and personalities are infinitely more intricate than the patterns of snowflakes or leafs Ian is mystified by and despite their absence they continue to echo through each scene that follows colouring de Hoog’s performance as the narrative unfolds.
With his second feature in the bag, Muldowney continues to breath new life into dark material presenting, from what could easily have become another body horror B movie, a twisted and tender fairy tale about loneliness that is as much concerned with life as it is with death. The whole affair warrants repeat viewings and Tom Comerford’s cinematography and Bart Westerlaken’s elegiac score combine and compliment Ian’s evolution beautifully.
It may upset the squeamish but brave the initial bleakness and you’ll be pleasantly surprised and perhaps even revitalised.
Love Eternal, directed by Brendan Muldowney (Savage), has won the Dublin Film Critics Circle Best Irish Feature Award at the recent Jameson Dublin International Film, and will be released in Irish cinemas by Wildcard Distribution this summer.
Love Eternal premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh in July, and has now screened at over sixty festivals worldwide, including the prestigious Sitges and Busan, and winning the inaugural Fresh Blood Award at the recent Black Bear Film Fest in Warsaw. Upcoming International screenings include festivals in Taiwan, Belgium, Brazil, and Portugal. Love Eternal will also screen at the Dingle Film Festival on the 16th March.
Featuring the Emmy-nominated Dutch actor, Robert de Hoog (Skin), and Scottish actress Pollyanna McIntosh (Filth, The Woman), and based on the Japanese novel In Love With The Dead, from acclaimed author Kei Oishi (Apartment 1303, The Last Supper), the film centers on an isolated and death-fixated young man who tries to make sense of the world, and his existence, in the only way he knows how…by getting closer to death.
Speaking about the Jameson Dublin Film Festival award and the upcoming release, director Brendan Muldowney said: “I’m honoured and delighted with the recognition this award gives Love Eternal. I would like to thank all involved in the film (as we share collectively in the award) – cast, crew, funders, producers, co-producers, distributors and sales agent, and in particular – Kei Oishi, the writer of the novel, Producer Conor Barry, and Fastnet Films. Thank you – Dublin Film Critics Circle, and also, thank you Grainne Humphreys and JDIFF for screening Love Eternal. We look forward to our cinema release in June with Wildcard Distribution”.
Love Eternal was produced by Conor Barry, Morgan Bushe and Macdara Kelleher at Fastnet Films, with Luxembourg co-producers – Red Lion, Dutch co-producers – Rinkel Film and TO Entertainment from Japan, with support from the Irish Film Board, the Film Fund Luxembourg, the Netherlands Film Fund and Atlantic Screen Music.
Richard Drumm joined the party and takes a look at The Stag, which closed this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.
Under orders from bride-to-be Ruth (Amy Huberman), best-man Davin convinces his best friend Fionnan (Hugh O’Conor) to have a stag-weekend despite his early reluctance. Everything seems to be in place for a quiet weekend of hiking with a small group of friends until a wildcard appears in the guise of The Machine (Peter McDonald), Ruth’s brother and a significantly more boisterous personality than Davin and co are used to. And thus the scene is set for all manner of hijinks, misunderstandings, nudity and more character drama than you might expect.
There’s a moment early on in The Stag where The Machine first enters the film with his awkward, over-the-top attempts at ‘humour’ and all hope seems to drain from the very screen. Thankfully however, this appears to have been an intentional manoeuvre to wrong-foot the audience as the film almost immediately changes course once the hiking portion of plot begins and everything settles into a much more naturalistic and genuinely funny flow. It is unfortunate that the opening movement of the film is decidedly spotty because once the plot-proper gets going there is a lot to like with The Stag.
The most refreshing aspect of the film is that at no point does it feel the need to descend into lazy, tired ‘paddy-wackery’ style humour like almost every other Irish comedy. There are no jokes where the punchline is just ‘listen to how thick their accent is, isn’t that hilarious?’ or ‘oh, aren’t colloquialisms from rural Ireland just delightfully quaint?’ No, The Stag (for the most part, anyway) places its emphasis on clever writing and some quite amusing, smaller set-piece gags. There are a few jokes of the low-hanging-fruit variety that fall decidedly flat, like the previously mentioned first appearance of The Machine, but they’re largely in the first act of the film before the characters actually get into the countryside.
It is odd how everything about the film only seems to fall into place once the hike begins because on top of the humour settling in, the cast do too. Andrew Scott is of course the main focus and he doesn’t disappoint. Naturally it’s near-impossible not to have a smile to yourself at seeing ‘Moriarty’ being a best-man but the novelty quickly wears off and over the course of the film Scott demonstrates his range definitely extends further than just playing consulting criminals (admittedly the fact that Scott is playing a college professor in this certainly didn’t help shake off said novelty.) The rest of the cast are equally fun to watch and share a convincing chemistry together, especially in the more dramatic moments. The real praise should, however, go to McDonald. For what looked on the surface to be one-dimensional, insufferable, ‘wacky’ character, he brings an impressive level of control to his performance as the slow reveal of what is ultimately the most tragic character in the film.
Sadly, the film slightly falls apart in the final ten minutes once the story moves back to Dublin. After doing a surprisingly good job of setting up and expanding upon a lot of issues with modern Ireland and Irish society (financial problems, the very guarded nature of Irish masculinity, older generations’ inability to accept the normalisation of homosexuality in a modern society, etc.), it almost seems like we’re about to get a somewhat ambiguous ending that doesn’t resolve any of these rather large and complex issues. Indeed, there’s a shot of Scott walking through a field that would have been an ideal place to finish. But instead the film goes on to show the wedding and over the course of that scene resolves practically every source of conflict or distress that had previously been mentioned. It’s disappointing because many of these issues don’t have simple solutions and it felt like it would have been enough for the film to merely draw attention to, and have a small discussion about, them. Instead we get an almost unbearably saccharine ending which feels out of place with the more naturalistic and grounded nature of the preceding half an hour or so.
On the whole though this is still a genuinely amusing film which, despite taking a little time to find its feet, settles into a comfortable and nicely heartfelt comedy that far exceeds a lot of recent Irish attempts at such broad humour. For a film that purports to be about modern Irish issues, it’s unfortunate that it doesn’t quite have the resolve to end at a more natural point and be content to have merely created a dialogue on those issues. The final scene wraps things up a bit too neatly and is in danger of trivialising some of the good work that came before. However, this doesn’t necessary detract from the comedy itself and so will likely be a moot point for most people.
The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014, which concluded on Sunday night, has today revealed the winner of the CineTALENT award from the 2014 festival. The winner of the CineTALENT award is Donal Foreman, director of Out Of Here.
Donal Foreman’s Out Of Here was one of the first films in the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival to sell out. Out of Here is a contemporary coming-of-age story showing Ireland and its youth culture in a light not previously seen or explored. Timely and expertly realised, Donal Foreman’s debut feature is a pitch-perfect and resonant depiction of contemporary Ireland and its young people. Donal also won the Michael Dwyer Discovery Award from the Dublin Film Critics Circle for the film. The film was crowdsourced and received completion funding from Bord Scannán na hÉireann / the Irish Film Board.
The CineTALENT award is an initiative between the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, Universal Pictures, Screen International and Bord Scannán na hÉireann / the Irish Film Board, which showcases and promotes Irish filmmaking talent to the international industry and on the world stage. Nominations for this year’s CineTALENT award came directly from the production companies and / or distributors of the feature titles within the Irish season. A public vote for the CineTALENT award was live since February 13th, which allowed audiences to engage and vote for the nominees.
Donal Foreman’s prize will include profile from Screen International and networking opportunities at their events at the Toronto, Cannes and Berlin film festivals. He will also receive the support and assistance of Universal Pictures and Bord Scannán na hÉireann / the Irish Film Board, with networking introductions to influential industry contacts with a view to securing the widest possible audience for their film. The prize will also crucially include mentoring opportunities from established industry professionals.
Emma O’Donoghue checks out Cecily Brennan’s part documentary, part dramatised art-piece which investigates the connection between madness and artistic creativity.
‘We misunderstand madness and we misunderstand creativity.’
Directed by Irish artist Cecily Brennan, this part documentary, part dramatised art-piece explores the supposed link between artistic creativity and insanity – the tension between order and disorder. It interweaves snippets of interviews on the subject of art and madness with emotive scenes of a young artist ‘Paul’ (played by Marty Rea) struggling with the onset of a full mental breakdown.
Though short (35 minutes), The Devil’s Pool is a potent mix of visceral intensity and cerebral stimulation, raising many questions and inviting the audience to examine their own attitudes towards the subject matter. Dr Simon Kyaga of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm discusses studies that have been done on incidents of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder among the creative professions, while Prof. Patricia Waugh of Durham University explains how, throughout history, artists seek expression through the ‘breaking of habits’, yet this has always been seen as threatening to bourgeois society. Playwright Frank McGuiness and poet Paul Muldoon speak about the illusive idea that embracing insanity might somehow ‘unlock’ new levels of creativity previously unknown to the restrained and conformed mind.
These fascinating interviews are intersected by scenes of Paul in a white space – some unknown place in the pit of his mind. He desperately tries to take control of this space by carefully drawing thick ruled lines on the walls, with the words ‘I am not going mad. I am in control’ written on them. But Paul cannot find the words to express his inner torment, nor can he contain the sloshes of black paint that swirl around his feet, devouring and blackening this clean, white place. There is something inescapably grim about these scenes. They overwhelm the senses by providing a visual representation of the frustratingly slippery and painfully isolating world of insanity – that ‘unavoidable darkness’.
In a brief Q&A after the screening, Cecily Brennan said, ‘we misunderstand madness and we misunderstand creativity’. Throughout history, the greatest problem for the artist is that there has always been a dangerous allure and romanticism surrounding the notion of being driven insane by your art, when in fact there is no art in madness. In melancholy, despair and insanity there can be no illumination, nothing can be created. As Paul Muldoon explained, artists like Sylvia Plath were ‘driven mad by the myth’, believing that transcending sanity was a door to true art, when in fact this is nothing but an insidious fallacy.
This is a provocative piece of Irish filmmaking that delves into the dark recesses of the mind in an effort to extract some insight. It daringly explores a side of art that is often discussed, but seldom understood.
The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014, which concluded last night, has today revealed the winner of the Audience Award from the 2014 festival. The winner of the award has been announced as Los Wild Ones, an Irish co-production, which screened to a rapturous response from a sold-out audience at the festival during the week.
Elise Salomon’s Los Wild Ones had its Irish premiere at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, with Reb Kennedy and Imelda May attending. The Audience Award is voted for by audiences as they leave each film screening at the festival, with audiences awarding films a score of between one and four stars.
Gráinne Humphreys, Festival Director, commented “It’s wonderful to see this really inspiring, lively and informative documentary win the Audience Award this year, not only because of the fact that Reb is Irish and the film is an Irish co-production, but because the screening of the film truly was one of the highlights of the festival.”
Los Wild Ones follows the lives of Reb Kennedy and the artists on his LA based indie label, Wild Records. Wild is composed of young Hispanic musicians who write and perform 50’s rock ‘n’ roll. The film delivers an honest look at the label’s ethos and unconventional but tight-knit family of Reb, the Irish father figure, and his ‘kids’. Reminiscent of the early days of Sun Records and the influence that label had on popular music, Wild mirrors that journey. The bond between Reb and his artists is unparalleled in the music industry. Just like every family system, there is a fair amount of dysfunction but they manage to stick together.
The label is Reb Kennedy and Reb is Wild’s founding father. A purist and vinyl fanatic, he is extremely reluctant to embrace the digital age. He is a genius in many ways and has created so much of what the record label is, who the artists are: their style, their voices, their image. Realistically however, Reb must adopt newer ways to take Wild Records and these talented artists to the next level.
The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival ran at venues throughout Dublin from February