DIR: Robert Quinn • WRI: Macdara Ó Fatharta, Robert Quinn • PRO: Ciarán O’Cofaigh • DOP: Tim Fleming • ED: Conall de Cléir • DES: Dara McGee, Padraig O’Neill • Cast: Bríd Ní Neachtain, Peadar Lamb, Máire Ní Mháille
I definitely wouldn’t say that I am fluent in the Irish language; in fact, I have been known to add words like ‘bainne’, ‘capal’ and ‘madra’ together to create some manner of unwelcome hybrid. When reviewing Cré Na Cille, I realised that there may be a little Leaving Cert Ciara inside of me, who wishes she had listened more. So reviewing Cré Na Cille was to be my first steps back into the language, albeit with subtitles.
Cré Na Cille translates as Graveyard Clay, which gives you as much insight into the film as a title can. The film is an adaptation of the beloved book by Mairtin O’Cadhain, which is widely considered to be one of the best Irish language books ever written. Much of the action takes place under ground in the graveyard clay of the title. The story synopsis almost reads like a horror movie; a jealous fury between two sisters in their youth, is carried into the grave where it festers and burns away at our questionable heroine, but what comes as a refreshing change, is the humour that is infused throughout and, regardless of language, this film has taught me some of the most hilarious insults that I have ever heard. If you’re not sure whether or not this film is for you, bear that in mind.
As our heroine Catriona Phaidin rests with no peace, she awaits news from the world above, and harasses the newly dead at every turn. These underground scenes are even more effective than those above ground at portraying Irish life. As Catriona continues to gossip, the urge to keep her quiet is palpable. Some of the greatest scenes here are, rather morbidly, of death. As her neighbours begin to drop like flies, they die in increasingly humorous ways, and it’s difficult not to have a little chuckle.
Director Robert Quinn bases his film in the Connemara of its origin and sought to employ primarily Connemara people. This adds a certain level of authenticity to the film, and makes the language all the more fluid and delicate to the ear. Visually, it is a well composed piece. The sections which take part underground are set up in an interesting departure from the original tale. Rather than attempting to place characters in their coffins in a restrictive way, Quinn gives each character their own specific ‘grave’ from which they can wander. The montage that occurs each time a character dies becomes slightly tiresome, considering the frequency, it would have been nice to have something slightly more visually interesting happen here.
This is a film in which humour is the driving force as the dead don’t seek furious revenge, but gossip. A rarity in adaptations as it certainly does justice to a much-beloved book. Cré Na Cille may just serve its purpose of making the story more accessible and enjoyable to a younger demographic.
Cré Na Cille is available on DVD from 27th November 2010