Review of Irish Film @ ADIFF 2018: Twilight

 

Fionn Warren enters Twilight, Pat Collins’ latest documentary.

 

Acclaimed filmmaker Pat Collins (Silence, Song of Granite) returns to his documentary roots with Twilight, a beautiful collection of images that vividly capture the passing from daylight into darkness. Having spent two years filming across the breadth of Ireland, the images Collin’s ultimately selected for Twilight were all filmed in West Cork, mere minutes from his home. And it is no surprise as to why. We watch the orange light gradually fade from the still Baltimore sky as the darkness slowly creeps over the screen. Dark, grey clouds rush ominously past us as the last of the light is sucked away. We see all the vivid pinks and blues of the setting sun framed against the rugged Cork landscape.

At just under half an hour, Twilight is a meditative experience which combines beautiful visuals with a naturalistic and soothing soundtrack. The field recordings of sound artist Chris Watson reveal the noise of the clouds gliding by, a gull cawing in the distance, the gentle hum of a countryside uninterrupted by the modern world.

In Twilight, Collins has managed to capture the sense of stillness and calm that comes with the dwindling sunlight. Having undertaken the project to convey a world that is not so much holding its breath, but “breathing peacefully,” he has created a film in which the viewer is given time to do the same.

 

Twilight screened on Wednesday, 28th February as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival (21 February – 4th March)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Irish Film Review: Song of Granite

DIR: Pat Collins  WRI: Pat Collins, Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride  PRO: Jessie Fisk, Alan Maher  DOP: Richard Kendrick • ED: Tadhg O’Sullivan • DES: David Blanchard, David Blanchard, Padraig O’Neill   CAST: Michael O’Chonfhlaola, Macdara O Fátharta, Leni Parker

Bobbing lights of humble fishing boats shine against the dark monochromatic backdrop of open water. A new Mother’s brow is patted dry as she breathes through the pain of childbirth. This is the beginning of Song of Granite and the beginning of Joe Heaney’s life story. The biography of the legendary sean-nós singer, Heaney, is told in three parts by director Pat Collins through breathtaking visual poetry and traditional song.

Song of Granite, directed, co-written and co-produced by Collins was selected by the Irish Film & Television Academy to represent Ireland as a submission to the 88th Academy awards. The film has been shortlisted for nomination in the category of Best Foreign Language Film, along with eight other entries from around the world.

It is a uniquely executed film that is difficult to define by genre. Song of Granite is mostly a dramatised account of Heaney’s life from birth to old age with a sampling of archive footage and voiceovers woven in. It is shot exclusively in black and white, blending the dramatic with the archive footage. This gives the entire film the look and feel of a documentary glimpse into the life of a pre-war rural Ireland. Scenes of a young Heaney scavenging for periwinkles and cutting turf with his father could easily be mistaken for remastered outtakes of the 1934 documentary Man of Aran.

The photography in Song of Granite is nothing short of enchanting. The composition of each shot is a picture perfect tableau. Scenes of Carna villagers gathered to share stories or to listen Heaney’s father could be on a vintage postcard or the subject of a Paul Henry painting.

The script, co-written by Collins, Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride and Sharon Whooley, does not play out as a traditional plot. Instead, we are presented with a realistic look into the authentic life of an ordinary Irish man with an extraordinary talent. It is a refreshing take on a biopic, true to Collin’s documentarian roots. It is free from the obvious fact twisting and hyperbole that so often corrupts true stories to fit into classic cinematic narratives.

Most of the dialogue is delivered in Irish with subtitles. However, not much speaking goes on at all. This will be a relief to any viewers who, like myself, have regrettably lost every word of Irish since leaving school. The film is slow paced and peaceful. Only music seems to pierce the silent, calm nature of this film. In a tiny pub heaving with revellers, Heaney takes part in a trad session filled with so much raucous and immersive energy that the viewer feels incomplete without a pint in hand. The story is about Joe Heaney but it is the music that stars.

Collins has already proved to be a master of soundscape with his 2012 film Silence. Dozens of traditional Irish songs are heard throughout Song of Granite. Sometimes the mood is spirited and exuberant and other times the sound and focus are unbroken creating an incredible intimacy that allows the audience to fully engage with the moment. The poetry of these ballads will resonate with the audience for quite some time after viewing. Even those who are not fans of traditional music will surely feel the poignancy of these songs and will walk away humming some sean-nós to themselves.

In the first act, a young Heaney, portrayed by newcomer Colm Seoighe, spends his days exploring Connemara, doing his chores, playing with friends and spending time with his father. It is from his father that Heaney learned how to master his own gift of song. Throughout the first act we watch him gradually building up his confidence and his talent so that by the time we enter the second act and meet a now middle-aged Heaney played by Mícheal O’Confhaola, he has mastered the art of performance.

O’Confhaola plays Heaney with an apt subtlety without much outward emotion but a distinct touch of melancholy. Each incarnation of Heaney is superbly cast. Despite not bearing much of a physical resemblance to each other or the real Heaney, each actor delivers several electrifying traditional songs that recreate and capture the enormity of Heaney’s talent very well.

The third act of the film shows Heaney living in New York. Now in his 60s, played by Macdara Ó Fátharta, he recounts elements of his life history to an American interviewer.  As he grows older and weaker he desires to return to his homeland where he can reconcile himself with his past and younger self

Song of Granite will be a very important film this year and I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in Irish culture. However, it may ask too much of its audience. Unless you are a die-hard trad music fan, the long sean-nós performances could be a bit of a workout for the attention span. Also, characters appear without much introduction and actors change with the passage of time, which is a tad confusing but not distractingly so. This is the story of a fragmented, tortured artist told in three fragmented parts. Song of Granite is a film that will sing to the heart and soul of any Irish person home or away.

Hannah Lemass

G (See IFCO for details)

97 minutes
Song of Granite is released 8th December 2017

Song of Granite – Official Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh: Song of Granite

Deirdre de Grae sings along to Song of Granite, Pat Collins’ portrait of the life of the great traditional singer, Joe Heaney, which screened at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh.

 

Song of Granite, was the opening film at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh. The film was introduced by the producer, Alan Maher (of Marcie Films), and the director, Pat Collins, who reminisced about his time as the Fleadh programmer in the 1990s. As this was the opening film, it screened to a full house, including cast and crew, as well as the featured musicians Lisa O’Neill and Damien Dempsey.

The black and white, lán Gaeilge, Song of Granite is a portrait of the sean-nós singer, Joe Heaney.  It is difficult to define the film, and perhaps there is no need to try to do so – to fit it into clearly labelled folders of ‘genre’ and ‘format’. But there is a human tendency to desire classification, and an unfortunate necessity for entering film festivals, marketing and distribution. Although it was in competition with the feature films in the Galway Film Fleadh, it could just as easily be labelled as a documentary.

The dramatic portions of the film could be termed reconstructions, common in drama-documentary. The film also incorporates archive film and audio footage, so in this way, it could be billed either as feature documentary or a feature film. The archive footage of Irish emigrants in Glasgow and the reconstructions of the lives of Irish-speaking men in the UK reminded me of two previous screenings: the documentary, Men of Arlington (dir. Enda Hughes) and the feature film, Kings (dir. Tom Collins). Both of these films address the lonely, lost lives of single Irish men who find themselves turning to drink while living in London. In Song of Granite, the images of sad urban lives in the UK contrasted with the freedom and open air of Connemara. There is a physical feeling of relief to get back to Connemara and breathe the open air again, after watching the pub interiors, and the UK.

The 13-year-old Colm Seoighe gave an impressive performance playing the young Joe Heaney, and reminded me of both a young Domhnall Gleeson and Cillian Murphy: Domhnall Gleeson in his colouring and his screen presence, and Cillian Murphy in his eyes and expression. Colm did not appear to be fazed by the camera and crew, perhaps due to the small crew size, but also likely a testament to the director’s skills in putting him at his ease. He is a fantastic young actor and I hope that he is encouraged to pursue acting as he gets older.

The most notable aspect of this film was the soundscape – the sound recording team and the sound editing team need to be commended. As is evidenced in Pat Collins’ previous film, Silence, sound is intrinsic to his work and sound design is key to Song of Granite also. There is a wealth of atmospheric and ambient sounds used, with the focus on the sea, nature and song – whereas dialogue is kept minimal. By suppressing the visual elements (dark scenes, suppression of light, monochrome), the senses are focussed on sound instead.

At the same time, this is a highly cinematic, photographic film, deservedly winning an award for cinematography at the Fleadh this year for Richard Kendrick. There is a dream-like quality to this film: it is beautifully shot, there is a wonderful atmosphere, it is restful – you can get carried along with the film with your imagination and drift away – however, there isn’t a narrative, in the traditional sense of a feature drama film. The viewer would nearly need to know the story of Joe Heaney before watching, to understand what’s going on. The reconstructions are particulate and bitty, they don’t string together in a narrative structure – they are isolated reconstructed dramatisations. If you are a person who likes to watch a film for story, this might frustrate you. However, for me, the impressive acting of Colm Seoighe, the beautiful cinematography and the wonderful soundscape made this an enjoyable experience, and rose above the lack of a traditional narrative structure.

While I imagine the previous screenings at Karlovy Vary and SXSW took on an ethnographic-cultural tone (for example, the filmmakers had to explain what sean-nós was in U.S. interviews), in Galway, there was very much a sense of the film ‘coming home’. The Irish language was not a barrier to this audience, comprising of the film crew, Connemara-based cast and a who’s-who of the film and television industry in the west – with whom the landscape and lives portrayed resonated. The crowd was very responsive to the traditional music ‘sessions’ on screen, and some older audience members around me sang along to ‘The Galway Shawl’, which was a very sweet moment. After one long sean-nós session, the cinema audience applauded along with the on-screen audience, as they felt intimate with the scene.

Pat Collins’ Song of Granite transcends genre and strict, static definitions. I hope that he, as an Irish auteur, will be included in the canon of Irish filmmakers, and to see his work in ‘Irish film’ courses across Ireland and internationally.
 
Song of Granite screened on Tuesday, 11th July 2017, as part of the Galway Film Fleadh (11 – 16 July).
 
Song of Granite will be released in Irish cinemas on 24th Nov 2017.
 

 

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National Film School Lecture Series: Pat Collins

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National Film School Lecture Series [in association with Bord Scannan na hEireann / The Irish Film Board] present Pat Collins, IFTA Winning Documentary Maker

 

Pat Collins is one of the best documentary makers working in Ireland today. A former editor of Film West magazine, he has won multiple awards for his work, including: Michael Hartnett: A Necklace of Wrens (1999); Oileán Thoraí (2002); Abbas Kiarostami; The Art of Living (2003); Marooned (2004),  John McGahern: A Private World (2004);  Gabriel Byrne – Stories From Home (2009); Tim Robinson: Connemara (2011); and Living in a Coded Land (2014). In 2013, his  first fiction feature, Silence, was widely acclaimed.

Date: Wednesday 12th November @ 12.00 noon
Venue: C036, Carriglea Building, IADT, Dun Laoghaire

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Living in a Coded Land – Review of Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh

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Stephen Totterdell deciphers Living in a Coded Land, Pat Collins’ film essay that makes unexpected links between events and locations, history and contemporary life. The film screened at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

This film tries too hard. It’s extremely self-indulgent.

And yet, it offers sound analysis of Irish society in a way that most films don’t. It makes no concessions to its audience, and can come across as preachy; but if its viewers can stick with it they will find value. It excavates – slowly – some of the ideology at the heart of modern Ireland. It offers a vocabulary for liberation in a thoughtful manner, rather than a shouty manner.

There has been much talk about the reasons for Irish artist’s disinterest in critiquing Irish society during the financial crisis. Most writers and filmmakers seem content to ignore what has been happening, and write about tea instead; or the power of sticking together or whatever. A few, such as the poet Dave Lordan or the novelist Julian Gough, do their best to shoot from the sidelines. It is still rare, though, and that makes this film a welcome manifestation of concern.

The code of the title is the set of behaviours, mannerisms, social rules that one learns to manipulate in order to rise to the top. Those who achieve it aren’t necessarily the best or the brightest; they just know the right things to say in order to slip through. More often that not, this is due to an accident of birth; they were born into a “good” family or they went to a certain school. They learn to latch onto the part of society that rises to the top. Whereas in the past it might have been the world of oil (or milkshakes), today it is finance

What the film achieves is that it makes explicit the mechanisms at work, so that laymen can understand them. It demystifies the processes at work, which will hopefully help the population to feel more confident in criticising those processes. It is easy for those in these high status positions to accuse the “lower” classes of being overly passionate or not knowing the specifics of a situation, but, as with the many violations of the last few years, we can see that these “higher” classes don’t really know the specifics either. It’s a power system, and this film attempts to teach people to navigate it in order that they can begin to dismantle it.

That is an ambitious and admirable project. That Collins indulges in too much arthouse imagery is forgiveable, but I hope that he improves on this front in the future. This is one of the few contemporary Irish artworks that tries to say something important.

Click here for our coverage of Irish Film at the 26th Galway Film Fleadh  (8 – 13 July, 2014)

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Cinema Review: Living in a Coded Land

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DIR/ PRO: Pat Collins • DOP: John Conroy • ED: Tadhg O’Sullivan • Camera: Colm Hogan, Feargal Ward • Sound: John Brennan

Ambitious, intelligent and beautiful to watch, Living in a Coded Land marks an impressive follow-up to Silence for director Pat Collins and his talented team. The film investigates the Irish landscape, people and their culture, making interesting links between past and present.

The film makes a sustained argument, explaining contemporary Ireland through its past, so Living in a Coded Land plays as an essay film. It develops an original idea of historian Dr Patrick J O’Connor, taking places such as the Hill of Uisneach, the site of the Battle of Aughrim (1691), Castletown House and Dublin’s former tenement buildings and interrogating them for possible meaning or codes. It traces the emergence of an influential middle class in Ireland that acts as intermediaries for foreign capital. Historians Conor McCabe, Heather Laird and Tony Farmar provide the commentary.

The nature of the relationship between art, culture and politics forms another strand that runs through the film. Folklorist Henry Glassie talks about “the universal of the contextual … of the local”. Collins weaves particular places and artworks into a grander narrative. He even matches discussions of culture with contemporary scenes from GAA matches and practice sessions, expanding the cultural realm to include the national sports.

Living in a Coded Land boasts poetic qualities that make it an enchanting documentary. Collins fills his film with characteristic long takes and striking images (notably a stark moon shining over a still lake). His use of music and archival footage is particularly effective, indulging in sequences in which Séamus Ennis plays his pipes and accordion player Tony McMahon entertains a hall full of students. Austere piano accompanies a sequence in which Dublin’s Georgian buildings decline into the slums. Poets Seamus Heaney and Michael Hartnett read their works, complementing the film’s carefully composed images, rhythms and sounds.

Living in a Coded Land presents an imaginative and thoughtful look at Ireland’s past, an explanation for its present and hopes for the future.

John Moran

80 mins

Living in a Coded Land is released on 25th April 2014

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Irish Film Festival London: ‘Silence’ & ‘Men and Women’

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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.

 

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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

www.irishfilmfestivallondon.com

 

 

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Competition: Win a copy of ‘Silence’ on DVD

To coincide with the DVD release, the mighty people at Element have given us 3 copies of Pat Collins’ beautiful film Silence to give away.

A meditation and odyssey, Silence traces the psycho-geographical journey undertaken by an enigmatic soundman from his adopted city of Berlin to his native Donegal.

To win a copy of the DVD, simple send the name of the soundman (who is also the film’s writer and co-scenarist) to filmireland@gmail.com

The competition is open until lunchtime Thursday, 22nd November – at which point the much loved, yet rarely worn, Film Ireland Hat will determine the winners.

Element Pictures Distribution announce the Irish DVD release of Pat Collins’ critically-acclaimed feature debut Silence.  Silence is available to buy on DVD from 16th November.  Stockists include Tower RecordsGolden Discs and the IFI shop or you can buy the DVD online from the Element Pictures Distribution Shop or as a digital download on Volta

Silence DVD PurchasePurchase on DVD from the Element Pictures Distribution shop

VoltaStream or Download online on Volta (Ireland only)

www.silencefilm.ie

 

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Issue 140 Spring 2012 Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild: Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde

Continuing our series of articles from members of the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild, writer Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde tells us about his experiences as a co-writer on the screenplay for Silence which is currently in cinemas.

 

It was as early as 2006 when Pat Collins asked if I’d work with himself and his wife, Sharon Whooley, on an idea they had for a feature film. He told how the story would involve a sound-recordist, who was given the strange task of making field recordings in areas free from man-made sound and that his work would take him to remote and out-of-the-way places throughout the country. I was intrigued. Although I hadn’t co-written anything before, I couldn’t turn down such an offer, and soon we got to work creating the landscape of what we could only hope someday would become a feature film.

 

I had gotten to know Pat and Sharon a few years previously, working as a translator on one or two of their documentaries, and the relationship we built over the years was really important to the creative process. I think you take a chance when you start to share new ideas and you need that common ground and understanding to allow yourself to open up creatively to others. We trusted each other from the start and I didn’t feel that the mistakes that I was bound to make as I foosthered in the dark would be thrown back at me too hard.

 

Writing is usually a solitary thing and quite personal. I think most writers don’t like to show their work to others until they know it’s almost finished and beyond influence, so the process of co-writing was a little tricky for me at first with the constant to-ing and fro-ing of work, but I soon began to enjoy it. That trust that we had built up turned out to be very important.

 

And then Pat asked if I would play the lead character in the film and my role in the film suddenly took a new twist. He felt that the main character should be someone who had an intimate connection with the script – that it would allow us to do things a little differently. I gave in and was happy to be fully involved; I loved the challenge.

 

Although we met and communicated often, I think the hardest part was pinning down exactly what we collectively wanted from the script. We all had our own ideas, but Pat directed the writing from the start and with an uncanny eye he could see when the script was veering off into unnecessary or overstated territory. I think the crucial thing about co-writing is striking a balance. Everyone wants something different from a piece of work but finding the common ground is the key and we found that early on.

 

I remember at the beginning there was a certain character that I’d introduced who changed the tone of the film somewhat. He was a wise old man who spoke of superstition and otherworldly things like an fear ocrach, the hunger spirit, and of course I thought he was great and he survived into later drafts. It was much later that it became apparent that the old man was giving us a bit of a bum steer in the film, his emphasis on the supernatural wasn’t quite right, so we decided to let him go. The point is that he was allowed to live until he proved himself unnecessary and his existence in turn created the space for other things to happen in the script. In the final draft remnants of him remain in spirit, and, in some way, he guided us in a certain direction that helped create part of the world that the film inhabits. Every idea becomes part of the shared consciousness of co-writing, and I learned that by allowing those ideas a space to live that you can create a world that you can navigate through. This is something I got to like about co-writing, it has a malleability that you don’t get with writing on your own because it lives in more than one mind and it can change independently of you, if you allow it.

 

Other times I felt I was trying too hard to impress the others and that I would steer the plot off in some direction of my own without being sensitive to the overall plot. Although, funnily, I’ve a feeling that might have focused the others on the true direction of the film and marked out the path a bit more clearly too. In co-writing I think you ultimately need one person in control and the others bringing all their ideas to the table; one person must have the final say and Pat was very clear on the direction that the film should take all along.

 

The most frustrating part of the process for myself, which eventually turned out to be the most liberating part, was Pat’s quiet insistence to avoid any direct narrative, or a narrative that was too obvious. I really was stumped at the beginning at how he managed not to be taken in by my clever attempts to tie everything up neatly in a narrative that gathered pace as the film developed. It was only later that I saw that he was purposefully eschewing narrative in order to let the more subtle nuances grow and gain ground in the film, and although I thought I understood this form of storytelling I soon learnt that, when it came to it, I hadn’t the same conviction as Pat.

 

As the writing continued I began to understand a little more about how Pat worked. He recognised the poetry in every single shot and knew how to space it to allow each scene to breath. It wasn’t about drama or subplots but about the feeling of that particular moment and how the authenticity of every emotion would make a scene work. If he didn’t feel entirely comfortable with the realness of a scene, he would drop it. There was no room for half-truths or trying to trick the audience by pulling the wool over their eyes; as far as Pat was concerned, it was all true or it had no place in the film. I think that that truth comes across in the final film. All those feelings we explore are in some way true and have been arrived at through his personal exploration of the scenes and situations that are played out on screen. I felt that even our own lives were in scrutiny in order that the reality of each moment could be explored. But it was a gentle scrutiny, almost standoffish, that let the real emotions show.

 

As we went into production, having being intimately involved in the writing of the script and with Pat’s guidance, I felt I was able to set the script aside and tease out the themes and conversations with the other actors in a way that felt real and free. It provided genuine situations where I could then try to get the other characters to say what the script had asked for, but in their own words, and this meant their reactions were real and not like acting at all. This is one of the strengths of the film, I think, and I couldn’t have achieved it without being part of the co-writing team.

 

Silence is a film that allows the viewer to participate in the story. It doesn’t shut you out but rather provides the space for your thoughts and meditation in a way that few films do. We set out to make a film that felt real and that gave the viewer a chance to experience something without feeling alienated, and I think with Silence that we have in some way achieved that.

http://www.harvestfilms.ie/silence

www.script.ie

 

Read Emmet O’Brien’s review of Silence here.

Silence was released on 27th July 2012

This article originally appeared in Film Ireland Spring 2012 issue 140, published 6th February 2012.

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Cinema Review: Silence

DIR: Pat Collins WRI: Pat Collins, co-written by Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride and Sharon Wooley PRO: Tina Moran DOP: Richard Kendrick ED: Tadhg O’Sullivan  Cast: Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride, Andrew Bennett, Marie Coyne, Tommy Fahy.

 

Pitched somewhere between documentary and fictional film Silence gently eases us through a defiantly abstract story. It stars Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde as a man who is striving to capture silence on audio, or the closest approximation to it. Wandering across the Irish landscape he attempts to locate a place untouched by man-made noise to fuel this private obsession and the film employs a great deal of natural longueurs to illustrate the natural splendour of the countryside.

 

Eoghan’s crusade brings him into contact with a few different characters who like himself appear to live on the fringe of a world slightly more exaggerated than real life and it’s in this mingling of the real and fantasy that the film retains its mystery.

 

I notice that the character’s name which is shared by the actor is only uttered once in the film casually by an old man he converses with near the end, the line between improvising and script becoming blurred. The mix of professional actors and real people lends an unsteady air to the whole proceeding. With the lead also being an audio engineer outside his acting work this lends an authenticity to his role.

 

When divorced from the overriding idea of silence as an artistic or personal force the film is essentially a prodigal son story, the man afraid to return to the island of his youth, to the weighty silence of home. The character is very remote, letting very little personal information trickle out in his various conversations, his discussion with a writer erring on the side of abstract analysis, his conversation with another man being far more generalised.

 

It is interesting to note that it is when faced with a younger generation and through the Irish language (obviously a skill he does not employ in Berlin where he currently lives, one of the few concrete facts we are told about him) that he seems to open up the most when faced with the naivety of youth. The boy he discusses his life with seems to ask far more probing questions unknowingly than other adults featured. Perhaps the boy lacks a filter or finesse the other characters would have used when discussing such matters.

 

Visually stunning, the array of locations from Berlin via Cork, Mayo and Belfast amongst others is caught with a loving eye and an artist’s appreciation of scope. However I can’t deny that the film left me somewhat cold as the quest is somewhat academic and sterile and the character too vague. I understand this was a choice on its creator’s part and having a more conventional structure and protagonist would have run the risk of sentimentality I do wish there was more of a hook here. While trying to avoid maudlin clichés they fell afoul of the other extreme and have crafted a cold arty piece that while masterfully shot its fidelity to silence leaves all other senses out of the loop.

 

Emmet O’Brien

Rated G (see IFCO website for details)
87 mins

Silence is released on 27th July 2012

http://www.harvestfilms.ie/silence

 

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Poetic Truths: The Cinema of Pat Collins at the IFI

Pat Collins’ rich and distinctive Irish documentaries are celebrated with a retrospective to coincide with his stunning new feature Silence.

There’s a long and distinguished history of critics turned filmmakers including greats such as Truffaut, Wenders and Bogdanovich. To this illustrious canon add Pat Collins, Cork polymath, editor of the late, lamented Film West magazine and a former programmer of the Galway Film Fleadh. He made his first remarkable documentary in 1999 and hasn’t stopped since, producing consistently stunning documentaries at a breathless rate. The IFI will present a broad mid-career retrospective from the 4th-21st of August that showcases many of his features as well as a selection of his short works and which coincides with the release of his first fiction feature Silence which screens from 27th July.

Collin’s eclectic filmography offers a series of deeply revealing artistic portraits, psycho-geographical topographies of Irish places, and experimental mood pieces. There’s a particular focus on rural living and those quiet rebels who, like the filmmaker, have a unique way of seeing.

One of the highlights of the season is 2011’s Tim Robinson: Connemara, Collins take on Robinson’s massively popular trilogy exploring the wilds of Connemara. The two men have kindred artistic souls, both sharing a profound, lyrical and heartfelt connection to the Irish landscape. There’s another exploration of place in Oileán Thoraí (Tory Island in Donegal) from 2001, somewhere Collins would return to a decade later in his new release Silence, a deeply immersive meditation on places free of man-made noise.

Collins’s portraits of artists in documentary demonstrate a considerable ability to capture some of the deepest and most personal parts of their character. His acclaimed Gabriel Byrne: Stories From Home sees the Walkinstown lad turned international film actor recount the events that have defined him with unstinting candour and a wry sense of humour. The season also holds a number of shorter portrait gems including Abbas Kiarostami: The Art of Living, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill:Taibhsí I mBéal na Gaoithe, and a particularly revealing portrait of one of Ireland’s finest modern writers in the final year of his life in John McGahern: A Private World.

Pat Collins will be interviewed by Derek O’Connor at the IFI on Tuesday 14th August at 18.30.

Pat Collins Schedule

Silence is on release at the IFI from 27th July

Talking to the Dead & Michael Hartnett – A Necklace of Wrens August 4th 14.00
Gabriel Byrne: Stories from Home August 5th 13.30
Tim Robinson: Connemara & Pilgrim August 7th 18.30
What We Leave In Our Wake August 11th 14.10

Shorter Works
Abbas Kiarostami: The Art of Living August 12th 14.00
John McGahern: A Private World August 12th 15.10
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill:Taibhsí I mBéal na Gaoithe August 21st 18.40
Oileán Thoraí August 21st 19.50

Public Interview : Pat Collins with Derek O’Connor August 14th 18.30

Tickets are available from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie. Tickets are at normal IFI prices except for the Shorter Works which are priced at €5 each. The Pat Collins Interview on August 14th is FREE but ticketed.

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‘Silence’ Receives Theatrical Release on July 27th 2012

Eoghan is a sound recordist who is returning to Ireland for the first time in 15 years.  His reason for returning is a job offer: to find and record places free from man-made sound. His quest takes him away from towns and villages into remote terrain.

Throughout his journey, he is drawn into a series of encounters and conversations which gradually divert his attention towards a more intangible silence, one that is bound up with the sounds of the life he had left behind.

Influenced by elements of folklore and archive, Silence unfolds with a quiet intensity, where poetic images reveal an absorbing meditation on themes relating to sound and silence, history, memory and exile.

Winner of the MICHAEL DWYER DISCOVERY AWARD 2012 at JDIFF, Silence will be released in cinemas by Element Pictures Distribution on July 27th 2012.

Speaking on the release, Director/Writer  Pat Collins commented that “When a film is completed you feel a great sense of responsibility to the crew, the cast and to the work itself that this film should reach an audience.  And it’s a great thrill to have the film released in cinemas, where the film will look and sound its best.  When we were shooting this film, out in the Irish countryside we were always thinking of those big empty landscapes in terms of the big screen. I think the final film is how we originally envisaged it and that’s a good way to feel about a film.”

www.elementpictures.ie

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JDIFF 2012 Irish Cinema Review: Silence, Pat Collins and Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Irish: Silence

Thursday, 23rd February, 8:45pm, Light House

 

Pitched somewhere between documentary and fictional film Silence gently eases us through a defiantly abstract story. It stars Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde as a man who is striving to capture silence on audio, or the closest approximation to it. Wandering across the Irish landscape he attempts to locate a place untouched by man-made noise to fuel this private obsession and the film employs a great deal of natural longueurs to illustrate the natural splendour of the countryside.

 

Eoghan’s crusade brings him into contact with a few different characters who like himself appear to live on the fringe of a world slightly more exaggerated than real life and it’s in this mingling of the real and fantasy that the film retains its mystery.

I notice that the character’s name which is shared by the actor is only uttered once in the film casually by an old man he converses with near the end, the line between improvising and script becoming blurred. The mix of professional actors and real people lends an unsteady air to the whole proceeding. With the lead also being an audio engineer outside his acting work this lends an authenticity to his role.

 

In conversation with filmmaker Ken Wardrop following the screening the director Pat Collins told us that the treatment was at one both specific of back stories but loose regarding the framing of scenes. While certain beats and story moments had to be hit the tone of the piece feels elusive and stark.  Collins explains, ‘It began as an idea of the old time folk collector, the man who records stories for future generations.’ Utilizing some archive material which is interspersed throughout conveys that message of lineage economically and to great effect.

 

When divorced from the overriding idea of silence as an artistic or personal force the film is essentially a prodigal son story, the man afraid to return to the island of his youth, to the weighty silence of home. The character is very remote, letting very little personal information trickle out in his various conversations, his discussion with a writer erring on the side of abstract analysis, his conversation with another man being far more generalised.

 

It is interesting to note that it is when faced with a younger generation and through the Irish language (obviously a skill he does not employ inBerlinwhere he currently lives, one of the few concrete facts we are told about him) that he seems to open up the most when faced with the naivety of youth. The boy he discusses his life with seems to ask far more probing questions unknowingly than other adults featured. Perhaps the boy lacks a filter or finesse the other characters would have used when discussing such matters.

 

Visually stunning, the array of locations from Berlin via Cork, Mayo and Belfast amongst others is caught with a loving eye and an artist’s appreciation of scope. However I can’t deny that the film left me somewhat cold as the quest is somewhat academic and sterile and the character too vague. I understand this was a choice on its creators part and having a more conventional structure and protagonist would have run the risk of sentimentality I do wish there was more of a hook here. While trying to avoid maudlin clichés they fell afoul of the other extreme and have crafted a cold arty piece that while masterfully shot its fidelity to silence leaves all other senses out of the loop.

 

Emmet O’Brien
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JDIFF: 'Tim Robinson: Connemara' Review

Tim Robinson

IFI

Wednesday, 23rd February

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Tim Robinson: Connemara, a Reel Art documentary directed by Pat Collins, was eagerly anticipated and played to a packed auditorium as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. In simple terms, the film is about mapmaker Tim Robinson, the books he wrote about mapping Connemara, and Connemara itself.

Robinson is a powerful presence in the film – readings from his books act as a voiceover and his rhythmic, reverent pacing as he walks the landscape forms much of what we see. And yet, in the Q&A after the film, it became clear that Robinson is anything but fond of the limelight; it was only after a concerted effort that Collins was able to convince Robinson to participate at all. There was perhaps some recognition of a kindred spirit, as Collins seems as self-effacing as his reluctant subject and actually, this self-effacement seems to add to the film’s greatness. There are shots that are unusual and that must have presented technical challenges. Yet throughout there is the sense that Collins acknowledges his camera as a tiny aperture gazing upon a vast beauty. He also acknowledges that half of the impact of the film is due to the penetrating soundscape that immerses the viewer. Sue Stenger composed music for the film by using the contours of Connemara to create the sound. There is generous space given for this sound to submerge the viewer and for the viewer to respond to both image and sound.

I had wondered if, conceptually, there would be elements of Brian Friel’s Translations. And, indeed, in a single phrase Robinson communicates the kernel of that extraordinary play. An Irish place name, translated into English, dries out and dies, like a branch snapped off a tree. An image that is poetic but communicates a real truth, that is informative but also powerful and emotive. Throughout the film, the simplicity of Collins’ approach adds to Robinsons’ already potent prose.

Here is a work that could only exist as a film, that speaks its loudest in a darkened cinema space filled with people. It is a response to a book, an interaction with a place and a skilled depiction of a human being who does exactly what we wish all our artists could have the time, space and capacity to do – bring us to an extraordinary place and allow us to really see. See it at all costs.

Niamh Creely

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