Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh: Pilgrimage

Niall Glynn goes on a journey to find meaning in Brendan Muldowney’s Pilgrimage,  which screened at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh.

Pilgrimage tells the story of a group of Irish monks in the early 13th century called upon by their Vatican superiors to escort a relic of religious significance (and possible supernatural ability) back to Rome to turn the tide of the failing crusades in the Middle-East. Their journey is fraught with peril due to both the perilous landscape and the brutal antagonistic forces in pursuit with Norman invaders and superstitious brutal native tribes to contend with.

Marvel alumni Tom Holland and Jon Bernthal lead a stellar cast alongside a fantastic selection of Irish talent, including John Lynch, Hugh O’ Conor and Rúaidhrí Conroy. Completing the ensemble is Hobbit star Richard Armitage, smouldering in his role as the vicious villain, delivering his occasionally hammy dialogue with relish. Holland reinforces his position as one of the most talented young actors of his generation as he brings an air of honest naivety to his character despite the occasional hiccup with his Irish accent.

Bernthal was wisely cast as a mute given the poor history of American actors struggling with the Irish accent (Back to the Future 3 remaining my favourite example of how not to handle this) and brings a rugged physicality to his performance due to his action experience. The Irish language is utilized brilliantly in immersing viewers in the world of ancient Ireland and the amazing landscapes give a true sense of the scale of the titular pilgrimage and of the bleakness of this world.

Despite this however, the action sequences are easily the weakest aspect of the film. The overuse of shaky cam techniques feels incongruous with the period setting and the rapid cutting makes the fighting difficult to follow at all. Prior to the screening Galway Film Fleadh programme director Gar O’ Brien enthusiastically told the audience to be prepared for extreme violence, yet Pilgrimage uses its gore sparingly with a particularly nasty torture scene working with the themes and narrative rather than for shock value.

The real strength of Pilgrimage is its exploration of its theme of faith in a seemingly uncaring world and its questioning the use of violence in the name of religion. It’s a shame that the decision to focus on action was made rather than keeping it a quieter more meditative experience but, despite this, Pilgrimage remains an incredibly solid film that will keep viewers gripped throughout.

 

Pilgrimage screened on Thursday, 13th July as part of the 2017 Galway Film Fleadh (11 – 16 July).

 

 

‘Pilgrimage’ Writer Jamie Hannigan & Director Brendan Muldowney

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‘Pilgrimage’ Writer Jamie Hannigan & Director Brendan Muldowney

 

In Brendan Muldowney’s latest film, Pilgrimage, a group of monks in 13th century Ireland must escort a sacred relic across an Irish landscape fraught with peril.

Paul Farren met up with Brendan and writer Jamie Hannigan in search of moral and spiritual significance.

Please note this interview contains spoilers

 

Paul Farren: Jamie, if I can start with you as the writer. What was the inspiration for this?

Jamie Hannigan: I wrote up this idea for the old Filmbase/RTÉ short film scheme Lasair. I got shortlisted but didn’t get in. So then I thought I could do it as a movie. I’d been watching a lot of Werner Herzog movies and I was chatting to Conor Barry [producer] about this idea of a bunch of monks dragging something of value to them, but not necessarily of a value – literally a rock. He got interested and told me to write it up. I did. Gave it to Brendan. He gave me feedback on the treatment and that became larger. Then we submitted it to the Irish Film Board, who liked it and agreed to get on board. And then Brendan came on officially to direct a draft or two after that… was it?

Brendan Muldowney: I can’t remember the exact stage. But I remember thinking that, at that early stage, it was too big a job for me to come on.  But I know I wanted to be a part.

Jamie: Unofficially, you were in the wings.

Paul: So what was it that held you to the script that you wanted to continue developing? I presume you were hooked from that first draft.

Brendan: I was hooked way before. I remember meeting in the IFI and Jamie pitched it to me and, at that stage, it was a very basic idea of monks dragging something across the country… and I think you mentioned an ambush. It was quite vague – well you probably had more than you were telling me.

Jamie Hannigan: No. It was quite vague!

Brendan: So it’s strange Paul, imagine someone pitched that to you – Right, I have Monks, 13th century, travelling through Ireland, dragging something, and you just imagine mud and trees and then there’s an ambush and there’s action. Obviously, it could have turned out bad, the story mightn’t have had legs… but it was that setting that got me.

After that it was about getting the story right, making sure that was working.  My memory is that it was a pleasant enough development process. There was a treatment that was good. We brought it into the Film Board and it went into development. I remember reading the first draft on a train with Conor Barry and I really thought it was brilliant and saying to him “this is the one”. I knew it was was going to be big. At that stage, we’d just made Savage. I knew it was bigger than we were. Our profile wasn’t big enough. But, you know, films take a long time to develop so we just kept going with it.

Tom Holland

Paul: Let’s talk about the film and its themes and ideas. To me, there’s definitely very overt political ideas running through it – it’s not just religiously themed. I wouldn’t say it’s anti-religious but it has an opinion. It doesn’t try and push an agenda, it just presents something. And, of course, we’re coming with our own contemporary attitudes. One thing I really liked was the sense of innocence of these Monks, who were suddenly being pulled into a political situation, where there’re lives being lost left, right and centre, because of other people’s agendas. And all down to this holy relic / rock that has got amazing political power.

Brendan: It’s not beating you over the head with it. Everyone can take their own interpretations. And I think we tried to do that – even in the script not just in the making of the film; that these people ascribe meaning to maybe natural events and to the rock. These are major spoilers now but what I really loved was that there was so much carnage created over what could be just a rock. That to me is what I loved about it to be honest. That appeals to me because that is the way I view the world and religion.

Paul: And the script Jamie…

Jamie: In general, with me anyway, it tends to be that you have an idea and you have lots of things float around. You need 5 or 6 ideas that all sort of work and seem interesting. It could be a character, a plot twist, a setting, a theme – at some point these ideas are bubbling around and they come together.

Paul: You shot the film in Ireland and Belgium. How did that work out for matching exteriors?

Brendan: It worked out well. You know there’s a rule that wherever your unit base is, there’s a radius then that you can’t shoot outside of.

Paul: Principle – that rule… you don’t have enough money!

Brendan: Yeh! – not even that though, it’s an agreement with the union so that people don’t have to travel too far.

Jamie: A 50 km radius.

Brendan: Exactly. So, when we found somewhere on the coast where we would shoot – in Leenane on the Mayo-Galway border – you take a radius out of there and our problem was that we only had mountains and coast. We were quite lucky because we did find this big green open area where the Norman camp is, Boycott’s Estate, so we were able to get just enough greenery. But there was no real forest that would suit. So it worked out really well that we had to shoot some of it in Belgium, which is really well known for its forests.

Jamie: In my head writing it, I was thinking of all these locations all around Ireland. That bit would be Killarney. That bit would be West Cork. That would be the Midlands, etc. But getting into the location scout plus this rule meant that Belgium worked out well for us.

Jon Bernthal

Paul: The performances all round were brilliant.You have Diarmuid played by some bloke called Tom Holland. He’s the linchpin of the whole story – we’re kind of sitting on his shoulders looking at the values of everybody else.

Jamie: He’s a blank slate.

Paul: And you’ve got Jon Bernthal, playing The Mute. He’s a really strong presence, an interesting actor. He’s kind of bubbling under the surface for the entire film. We never really get to know his full agenda. But he can look after himself… You had varying types of actors in there. Little bit of method and some not so. Tom wouldn’t be as much a method actor as Jon.

Brendan: Jon may have started off in a somewhat method manner by going silent for a week or so but then he came out of that.

Paul: You couldn’t shut him up!

Brendan: Yeh. That was his joke… “Then they wished I was silent!” It’s interesting because he had learned what he needed to do from that silence and when he needed to he would go back into that place. He had a big influence on everyone. And you say Holland is not coming from a method background but he took it very seriously and they all would get into the scenes and were willing to go to places that me and the AD would think was too dangerous. We were constantly pulling them back from things.

Paul: Which is important, coz you need them for the whole shoot! And Tom did a great stab at the old Irish.

Jamie: He was coming from a shoot from somewhere in Northern Canada. He came 2 weeks in advance, to start prepping for Irish. I wrote his Irish dialogue out phonetically and he had a great dialogue coach working with him in Paedair Cox and later Diarmuid de Faoite, who also plays The Captain.

Richard Armitage

Paul: Was it a tough sell working in 3 languages?

Brendan: 4 if you take Latin in there as well, alongside French, Irish and English.

Paul: Was there a pressure ever put on to have it in English?

Brendan: Well, some scenes were changed so that there was a certain percentage of English – 70 per cent. I don’t think it ended up as that… but that’s what was asked for. And that was in the script. But with scenes being cut in the edit, I’m not sure of the final percentage.

Paul: And what were the biggest challenges on set.

Brendan: I’ll tell you that horses are really difficult to deal with.

Paul: They’re such premaddonas…

Brendan: Yeh. They don’t do what they are supposed to do. What else… working in the water – very slow. Working with mist.

Paul: I do love that scene though when they are chasing them into the fog.

Brendan: You see, when it’s written as “the fog is so thick that you cannot see”, you need a lot of mist and it’s quite hard, even with big machines.

Paul: Was there any post work done on that?

Brendan: No, we couldn’t afford it. I would have liked it a little thicker.

Paul: What’s it like for you Jamie? You’re the one writing all these things and causing Brendan all these headaches. What’s it like to see it all made into a film.

Jamie: Interesting… I’m thinking in terms of what they were written as and imagined as and then how the crashing realities of production kick in.

Brendan: A lot of small details get lost.

Jamie: Like the lightening-strike scene – originally, that was written as a storm scene, lots of rain, mountains paths, horses and mud… things getting stuck, guys wading through mud. It was very messy.

Brendan: And we were told it can’t be done – no mud! We couldn’t even get the tankers to do rain up the path or, if we could, getting them refilled was just impossible. There’s many examples of things of things like that. It was incredibly sunny that day as well. Anything we did there was grading – all the clouds in the sky, etc., so now we’re suggesting a coming storm rather than being in a storm.

We would have needed a huge budget to execute some of the things that were in the script. Like the bridge breaking and the wheel coming down, or the scene with the archer following them- that was written with quicksand.

Jamie: That was one of those location ideas where I was thinking of places in the Midlands – and like I said we weren’t able to shoot outside that 50 km radius. It was done with lake-land in the end.

Paul: Well, it looks great. Which brings us to the cinematography – Tom Comerford. You were saying before that you did multiple camera for this film.

Brendan: Tom is great. We had 2 cameras for all the action – at the end on the beach and the ambush. It’s obviously better to have control over the shots but it’s about the coverage. I’ve learned in the edit how more important it is to have the coverage than having it perfect. I don’t think in the time we had to shoot everything – 3 days for the ambush  – that we would have had enough coverage, without the second piece of footage. There was no other way.

Paul: How much prep goes into those scenes – so that no-one gets killed!

Brendan: A lot. I started months beforehand breaking down each beat in that ambush. I would have taken Jamie’s script and broken it into lines first; so at least I know beats. Then I would have isolated anything that I thought needed special attention, whether it was special effects, visual effects, stunt work, prosthetics, make up and other stuff. It’s a long process. You have to have big round-table meetings with the departments all at the table.

Even beforehand, the preparation and the planning of all this is intense. Also it’s in 2 different countries and the same things happen. Everyone sits round and I’d have broken down any piece of action and we’d discuss it and see who could do what. It was complicated. I would talk to Jamie the whole time as well and would rewrite and number every piece of action.

Jamie: That ambush scene was much bigger in the early stages. That sort of style you want to keep a rhythm going that you’re implying action, you want to tell a story through it. But it was a lot more vague – like ‘the men attack’ ‘blood in the air’. Then that got a little smaller and you were saying we don’t have enough of a budget to show wide scenes like the Braveheart thing where all the guys clash into each other, so lets focus on the small, nasty little details of a guy getting strangled or a guy getting his arm chopped off. There’s something very visceral about that – and with sound effects over that you can feel the story by seeing these smaller gruesome, intimate details.

Paul: And it’s probably closer to the reality. I don’t think they were hanging around in their thousands and kicking each others’ arses back then anyway.

Brendan: And we felt it would be a bit messier – chopping an arm off might take a while rather than it coming clean off.

Paul: And on that image we’ll leave it. Thanks for coming in to talk to us.

 

Pilgrimage is currently in cinemas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spoilers

 

Paul farren: Jamie if I can start with you as the writer. What was the inspiration for this?

 

Jamie Hannigan: I wrote this idea up for the old RTE short film scheme Lasair – got shortlisted but didn’t get in. So then I thought I could do it as a movie. I’d been watching a lot of Werner Herzog movies and I was charring to Conor Barry about this idea of a bunch of monks dragging something of value to them, but not necessarily of a value – literally a rock – I’m chatting to Conor and making stuff up as I go along hoping to interest him. And he did get interested and told me to write it up. I did. Gave it to Brendan he gave me feedback on the treatment and that became larger and then we submitted it to the Irish Film Board who liked it and agreed to get on board. And then Brendan came on officially to direct a draft or two after that… was it?

 

Brendan Muldowney: I can’t remember the exact stage. But I remember thinking that, at that stage, for me it was too big a job for me to come on.  I wanted to be a part.

 

 

So what was it that held you to the script that you wanted to continue developing?

 

I was hooked way before. I remember meeting in the IFI and Jamie pitched it to me and at that stage it was  a  very basic idea of monks dragging something across the country and I think you mentioned an ambush… it was quite vague – well you probably had more than you ere telling me.

 

No. It was quite vague!

 

So it’s strange Paul. Imagine someone pitched that to you – Right, I have Monks, 13th century, travelling through Ireland, dragging something, and you just imagine mud and trees and then there’s an ambush and action. Obviously It could have turned out bad, the story mightn’t have had legs… but it was that setting that got me.

After that it was about getting the story right. My memory is that it was a pleasant enough development process. There was a treatment that was good. We brought it into the Film Board and it went into development. I remember reading the first draft on a train with Conor Barry and thinking this is brilliant and saying to him “this is the one”. I knew it was was going to be big. At that stage we’d just made Savage. I knew at that stage it was bigger than we were. Our profile wasn’t big enough. But you know films take a long time to develop so we just kept going with it.

 

I wouldn’t say anti-religious but it has an opinion, but it doesn’t push an agenda, it just presents something. And of course we’re coming with our own contemporary attitudes. One thing I really liked was the sense of innocence of these Monks  – some fairly decent Monk types in Sligo! – and suddenly being pulled into a political situation. And all down to this holy relic / rock that has got amazing political power.

 

It tends to be – with me anyway – with scripts that you have an idea and you have lots of things float around. You need 5 or 6 ideas that all sort of work and seem interesting – it could be a character, a plot twist, a setting, a theme – at some point these ideas are bubbling around and they come together. I remember being on an airplane sitting with my notebook and the political end of how  when the Normans had invaded Ireland they did so by getting this permission from the Pope. Ireland was a Christian nation but for the Pope they were not the right kind of Christians so the Normans needed to get in there and reestablish

 

The Cistercian has his wonderful way of evolving the way  he philosophies depending what he needs all the way through the story.

Let’s talk about Diarmuid played by some bloke called Tom Holland. He’s the lynchpin of the whole story – we’re kind of sitting on his shoulders looking at the values of everybody else.

 

He’s a blank slate…

 

He believes… and he’s a little bit soiled as the story goes along. Would you agree Brendan?

 

I would yes. Going back to what you said about the themes of  religion and that it’s not beating you over the head with it. Everyone can take their own interpretations. And I think we tried to do that – even in the script not just in the making of the film – that these people ascribe meaning to maybe natural events and to the rock – these are major spoilers now but… what I really loved was that there was so much carnage created over what could be just a rock. That to me is what I loved about it to be honest. That appeals to me because that is the way I view the world and religion.

 

17 back story

 

You shot the film in Ireland and Belgium. How did that work out for matching exteriors?

 

It was all interior woodland.

 

Even more than that – you know that there’s this rule that wherever your unit base is there’s a radius then outside that that you can’t shoot out of.

 

Principle – that rule… or you don’t have enough money!

 

Yeh – but its an agreement with the union so that [eopel don’t have to travel too far.

 

A 50 km radius.

 

Exactky – so when we find somewhere on the coast where we shot near Loius burgh and our problem was you take a radius out of there and we only had mountains and coast… to get forest and greenery it’s not really there. So it worked out really well that we had to shoot some of it in Belgioum which is really well known for its forests.

 

In my head writing it I was thinking of all thetse locations all around Ireland – but getting into the location scout and this rule I was right we do it all on this beautiful but sparse  landscape.

 

You know we were quite lucky because we did find this big green open area where the Norman camp is – Boycott Estate where so we were able to get just enough greenery.

 

  • Days in Belgium. 7 6 weeks…4 weeeks on Ireland – less 2 4-day weeks in Belgium

Actors dynamic – they all bonded.

 

Did you actively aid that? No what aided it was putting them on a hotel in the middle of nowhere.

  • Performances all round were brilliant. You had veryng types of actors in there – bit of method in there…

John may have started off in asomewhat method manner by going silent for a week os so and then after that came out of that.

 

You couldn’t shut him up!

 

Yeh. That was his joke… “Then they wished I was silent!” It’s intetetsring because he had learned what he needed to do from that silence and when he needed to he would go back into that place. He had a big influence and yu say Holland is not coming from methody but he took it seriously and they all would get into the scenes and they were willing to go tp llaces that maybe me and the AD would think may be dangerous.

 

Sand did a great stab at the old Irish.

 

He was coming from a dhoot from somewhere in Norgthern Canada. Hecame 2 week sin advance – to start prepping for Irish. I wrote his dialogue out phonetically and he had a dialogue coach working with him. Paedair Cox and Diarmuid.

 

The chemistry was there on the screen, And you were well served by your Irish actors a as well, Hugh Ruiari John Locjhlainn Diarmuid

 

A tough sell – three languages…

 

Final Draft is crashing..

 

$ languages – Latin French, Irish & English – was there a pressure ever put on to  jave it in English.

 

Well some scenes were changed so that there was a certain percentage of E English – 70per cent – I don’t think it eneded up as that – but that is what was asked for. And that was in the script – but with scenes being cut in the edit I’m not sure of the final percentage.

 

and

 

So

 

Horses are really difficult to deal with

 

  • They’re such premaddonas…

Yeh – they don’t do what they are supposed to do. YThere was athe grey horse who I kep t hearing had tooth ache and that he was a biy young.

 

What eles  working in bthe water – very slow. Working with mist.

 

I do love that scene though when they are chasing them into the fog.

 

You see – when it’s written as the fgog is so thick that you cannot see “ , you need a lot of mist amdnd it’s hard e bven with big machines.

 

Was there any post work done on that.

 

No we couldn’t afford it. I wasa told we could fill in gaps but bythe time . I would have liked it a little thicker.

 

What’s it like for you Jamie – you’re the one writing all these things and causing headaches – what’ sit like to see Brendan’s headache in film.

 

Interetsing… I’m thinking in terms of what they were written as an imaging as and then how the crashing realities of production

 

  • A lot of small details get lost

Like the second lightening scene – originally that was written as a storm scene, lots of rain, mountaims paths and horse – things getting stuck in guys are wading through mud

And we were told it can’t be done – no mud!

 

We couldn’t eve get tankards to do te rain up the path or if eq could yto getthen refilled was just impoosiible .- and there’s many examples of things like that. It was incredibly sunny that day – everything we did there was grading all the clouds in the sky, etc so noe we’re suggesting a coming storm rather than being in a storm . I even the archer following that was written as quicksand – we would have needed a huge budget to execute some of te h things  that were in the script. Breaking bridges quicksand and the like…

 

That was one of those location ideas where I was thinking of places in the Midlands – and like I said we weren’t able to shoot outsidethat 50 kn radius. – so you compromise y’know.

 

It looks great – which brings us to cinematography – Joe Comerford – I presume your difficulties are his – you were saying before that you did multiple camera for this film.

 

Yes we had 2 camera fo ral the action – the end on the beach and the ambush. I asked for 2 fo rthe Norman camp but unknownst to me I arrived on the second camera was off in a green screen – and it wasn’t even we were shooting on RED and it was a small Canon  that was shooting extras for duplication I the background. But we could have doen with a second canera on the Norman camp – we were running out time and there’a scene I had storyboarded 8 different ways but I only got the one shot at it…

 

But the multiple camera worked fgo ryou on the action scenes.

 

Oh yeh obviously it’s better  to have control over the shots but it’s about the coverage and I’ve learned in the edit how more important it is to have the coverage tahan having it perfect coz there’s been times where I’ve nbeen wishing evevn the camera had of been running longer after – so to have the second piece of footage – I don’t think in the time we had to shoot everything – 3 days f rthe ambush …w ewouldn;t have had enough coverage so yeh therwas no other way.

 

How much prep goes into those scenes – so tah tno-one gets killed!!

 

A lot. I starte months beforehand breaking down each beat in that ambush. I would have taken jamie’s script and broken it into lines first – so at least I know beats.. then I would have isolated anything that I think needed special attentaioon – whether it was special effect visual effects or stunt work or prosthietic make up and other stiff – yknow it’s a long process…you have to have big round table meetings with the departments all at the table.

 

Even beforehand the prep and te panning of all this is intense becaiuse also it’s in 2 different countries – the csame tings happen everyone sits round and  I’d have brokendown any piece of action and we’d discuss it and see who could do what. I would talk to Jamie the whole time as well and would rewrite and number every piece of avtion.

 

In preproduction. That scene was much bigger in the early stage vague the men attack blood in the air – then that got more smaller and you were saying we don’t have that much of a budget to show wide scenes like the Braveheart thing whwr all the guys clash into each other so lets focus on the small nasty little details of a guy getting starangled or a guy getting hos arm hacked off… there’s something very viscreral about that – and with sound effects iover that you can feel the story by seeing these small gruesome intimate details.

 

And it’s probably c;ose  to the realirty – I don’;t thonk they were hanging around in their thousands and kicking w=eachioters arses back then.

 

And we felt it would be a bit messier – chopping an arm off might take longer than it coming clean off – I was just going to give you an example there – at the start of the ambush there’s a slingshot.. so you would have the first scout who gets hit on the neck – so youu’d have to communicate this with all the departmnets costume would ne dot know that this character who’s going to get shot from wayback before from  Ireland can’t have chainmail on the neck .. there’s a lot of detail… and we had to think it through properly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spoilers

 

Paul farren: Jamie if I can start with you as the writer. What was the inspiration for this?

 

Jamie Hannigan: I wrote this idea up for the old RTE short film scheme Lasair – got shortlisted but didn’t get in. So then I thought I could do it as a movie. I’d been watching a lot of Werner Herzog movies and I was charring to Conor Barry about this idea of a bunch of monks dragging something of value to them, but not necessarily of a value – literally a rock – I’m chatting to Conor and making stuff up as I go along hoping to interest him. And he did get interested and told me to write it up. I did. Gave it to Brendan he gave me feedback on the treatment and that became larger and then we submitted it to the Irish Film Board who liked it and agreed to get on board. And then Brendan came on officially to direct a draft or two after that… was it?

 

Brendan Muldowney: I can’t remember the exact stage. But I remember thinking that, at that stage, for me it was too big a job for me to come on.  I wanted to be a part.

 

 

So what was it that held you to the script that you wanted to continue developing?

 

I was hooked way before. I remember meeting in the IFI and Jamie pitched it to me and at that stage it was  a  very basic idea of monks dragging something across the country and I think you mentioned an ambush… it was quite vague – well you probably had more than you ere telling me.

 

No. It was quite vague!

 

So it’s strange Paul. Imagine someone pitched that to you – Right, I have Monks, 13th century, travelling through Ireland, dragging something, and you just imagine mud and trees and then there’s an ambush and action. Obviously It could have turned out bad, the story mightn’t have had legs… but it was that setting that got me.

After that it was about getting the story right. My memory is that it was a pleasant enough development process. There was a treatment that was good. We brought it into the Film Board and it went into development. I remember reading the first draft on a train with Conor Barry and thinking this is brilliant and saying to him “this is the one”. I knew it was was going to be big. At that stage we’d just made Savage. I knew at that stage it was bigger than we were. Our profile wasn’t big enough. But you know films take a long time to develop so we just kept going with it.

 

I wouldn’t say anti-religious but it has an opinion, but it doesn’t push an agenda, it just presents something. And of course we’re coming with our own contemporary attitudes. One thing I really liked was the sense of innocence of these Monks  – some fairly decent Monk types in Sligo! – and suddenly being pulled into a political situation. And all down to this holy relic / rock that has got amazing political power.

 

It tends to be – with me anyway – with scripts that you have an idea and you have lots of things float around. You need 5 or 6 ideas that all sort of work and seem interesting – it could be a character, a plot twist, a setting, a theme – at some point these ideas are bubbling around and they come together. I remember being on an airplane sitting with my notebook and the political end of how  when the Normans had invaded Ireland they did so by getting this permission from the Pope. Ireland was a Christian nation but for the Pope they were not the right kind of Christians so the Normans needed to get in there and reestablish

 

The Cistercian has his wonderful way of evolving the way  he philosophies depending what he needs all the way through the story.

Let’s talk about Diarmuid played by some bloke called Tom Holland. He’s the lynchpin of the whole story – we’re kind of sitting on his shoulders looking at the values of everybody else.

 

He’s a blank slate…

 

He believes… and he’s a little bit soiled as the story goes along. Would you agree Brendan?

 

I would yes. Going back to what you said about the themes of  religion and that it’s not beating you over the head with it. Everyone can take their own interpretations. And I think we tried to do that – even in the script not just in the making of the film – that these people ascribe meaning to maybe natural events and to the rock – these are major spoilers now but… what I really loved was that there was so much carnage created over what could be just a rock. That to me is what I loved about it to be honest. That appeals to me because that is the way I view the world and religion.

 

17 back story

 

You shot the film in Ireland and Belgium. How did that work out for matching exteriors?

 

It was all interior woodland.

 

Even more than that – you know that there’s this rule that wherever your unit base is there’s a radius then outside that that you can’t shoot out of.

 

Principle – that rule… or you don’t have enough money!

 

Yeh – but its an agreement with the union so that [eopel don’t have to travel too far.

 

A 50 km radius.

 

Exactky – so when we find somewhere on the coast where we shot near Loius burgh and our problem was you take a radius out of there and we only had mountains and coast… to get forest and greenery it’s not really there. So it worked out really well that we had to shoot some of it in Belgioum which is really well known for its forests.

 

In my head writing it I was thinking of all thetse locations all around Ireland – but getting into the location scout and this rule I was right we do it all on this beautiful but sparse  landscape.

 

You know we were quite lucky because we did find this big green open area where the Norman camp is – Boycott Estate where so we were able to get just enough greenery.

 

  • Days in Belgium. 7 6 weeks…4 weeeks on Ireland – less 2 4-day weeks in Belgium

Actors dynamic – they all bonded.

 

Did you actively aid that? No what aided it was putting them on a hotel in the middle of nowhere.

  • Performances all round were brilliant. You had veryng types of actors in there – bit of method in there…

John may have started off in asomewhat method manner by going silent for a week os so and then after that came out of that.

 

You couldn’t shut him up!

 

Yeh. That was his joke… “Then they wished I was silent!” It’s intetetsring because he had learned what he needed to do from that silence and when he needed to he would go back into that place. He had a big influence and yu say Holland is not coming from methody but he took it seriously and they all would get into the scenes and they were willing to go tp llaces that maybe me and the AD would think may be dangerous.

 

Sand did a great stab at the old Irish.

 

He was coming from a dhoot from somewhere in Norgthern Canada. Hecame 2 week sin advance – to start prepping for Irish. I wrote his dialogue out phonetically and he had a dialogue coach working with him. Paedair Cox and Diarmuid.

 

The chemistry was there on the screen, And you were well served by your Irish actors a as well, Hugh Ruiari John Locjhlainn Diarmuid

 

A tough sell – three languages…

 

Final Draft is crashing..

 

$ languages – Latin French, Irish & English – was there a pressure ever put on to  jave it in English.

 

Well some scenes were changed so that there was a certain percentage of E English – 70per cent – I don’t think it eneded up as that – but that is what was asked for. And that was in the script – but with scenes being cut in the edit I’m not sure of the final percentage.

 

and

 

So

 

Horses are really difficult to deal with

 

  • They’re such premaddonas…

Yeh – they don’t do what they are supposed to do. YThere was athe grey horse who I kep t hearing had tooth ache and that he was a biy young.

 

What eles  working in bthe water – very slow. Working with mist.

 

I do love that scene though when they are chasing them into the fog.

 

You see – when it’s written as the fgog is so thick that you cannot see “ , you need a lot of mist amdnd it’s hard e bven with big machines.

 

Was there any post work done on that.

 

No we couldn’t afford it. I wasa told we could fill in gaps but bythe time . I would have liked it a little thicker.

 

What’s it like for you Jamie – you’re the one writing all these things and causing headaches – what’ sit like to see Brendan’s headache in film.

 

Interetsing… I’m thinking in terms of what they were written as an imaging as and then how the crashing realities of production

 

  • A lot of small details get lost

Like the second lightening scene – originally that was written as a storm scene, lots of rain, mountaims paths and horse – things getting stuck in guys are wading through mud

And we were told it can’t be done – no mud!

 

We couldn’t eve get tankards to do te rain up the path or if eq could yto getthen refilled was just impoosiible .- and there’s many examples of things like that. It was incredibly sunny that day – everything we did there was grading all the clouds in the sky, etc so noe we’re suggesting a coming storm rather than being in a storm . I even the archer following that was written as quicksand – we would have needed a huge budget to execute some of te h things  that were in the script. Breaking bridges quicksand and the like…

 

That was one of those location ideas where I was thinking of places in the Midlands – and like I said we weren’t able to shoot outsidethat 50 kn radius. – so you compromise y’know.

 

It looks great – which brings us to cinematography – Joe Comerford – I presume your difficulties are his – you were saying before that you did multiple camera for this film.

 

Yes we had 2 camera fo ral the action – the end on the beach and the ambush. I asked for 2 fo rthe Norman camp but unknownst to me I arrived on the second camera was off in a green screen – and it wasn’t even we were shooting on RED and it was a small Canon  that was shooting extras for duplication I the background. But we could have doen with a second canera on the Norman camp – we were running out time and there’a scene I had storyboarded 8 different ways but I only got the one shot at it…

 

But the multiple camera worked fgo ryou on the action scenes.

 

Oh yeh obviously it’s better  to have control over the shots but it’s about the coverage and I’ve learned in the edit how more important it is to have the coverage tahan having it perfect coz there’s been times where I’ve nbeen wishing evevn the camera had of been running longer after – so to have the second piece of footage – I don’t think in the time we had to shoot everything – 3 days f rthe ambush …w ewouldn;t have had enough coverage so yeh therwas no other way.

 

How much prep goes into those scenes – so tah tno-one gets killed!!

 

A lot. I starte months beforehand breaking down each beat in that ambush. I would have taken jamie’s script and broken it into lines first – so at least I know beats.. then I would have isolated anything that I think needed special attentaioon – whether it was special effect visual effects or stunt work or prosthietic make up and other stiff – yknow it’s a long process…you have to have big round table meetings with the departments all at the table.

 

Even beforehand the prep and te panning of all this is intense becaiuse also it’s in 2 different countries – the csame tings happen everyone sits round and  I’d have brokendown any piece of action and we’d discuss it and see who could do what. I would talk to Jamie the whole time as well and would rewrite and number every piece of avtion.

 

In preproduction. That scene was much bigger in the early stage vague the men attack blood in the air – then that got more smaller and you were saying we don’t have that much of a budget to show wide scenes like the Braveheart thing whwr all the guys clash into each other so lets focus on the small nasty little details of a guy getting starangled or a guy getting hos arm hacked off… there’s something very viscreral about that – and with sound effects iover that you can feel the story by seeing these small gruesome intimate details.

 

And it’s probably c;ose  to the realirty – I don’;t thonk they were hanging around in their thousands and kicking w=eachioters arses back then.

 

And we felt it would be a bit messier – chopping an arm off might take longer than it coming clean off – I was just going to give you an example there – at the start of the ambush there’s a slingshot.. so you would have the first scout who gets hit on the neck – so youu’d have to communicate this with all the departmnets costume would ne dot know that this character who’s going to get shot from wayback before from  Ireland can’t have chainmail on the neck .. there’s a lot of detail… and we had to think it through properly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Irish Film Review: Pilgrimage

DIR: Brendan Muldowney • WRI: Jamie Hannigan • PRO: Conor Barry • DOP: Tom Comerford • ED: Mairead McIvor • Production Desing: Owen Power • MUS: StephenMcKeown  CAST: Tom Holland, Jon Bernthal, Richard Armitage John Lynch|

 

I have long felt that our more distant history has too rarely been explored on screen. By ‘more distant’, I mean any period prior to the 1916 Easter Rising. I was thus eagerly looking forward to Brendan Muldowney’s latest project as director, written by Jamie Hannigan, which is set in 13th century rural Ireland.

There is a degree of risk in taking on unchartered territory and there is a particular challenge in creating a terrain from such a distant era. Muldowney’s ambition has been rewarded with distribution deals for the US rights and ten further territories.

There are themes in this film which have contemporary relevance. One of the principle themes is reliance on blind faith in challenging and dangerous situations. Such faith may not necessarily guarantee deliverance as we see several times in the course of this film. Another theme is the risk of betrayal in situations where there is a struggle for military and political power.

At its heart, the film is a road movie set in Norman times. It has visual and musical echoes of the journey depicted in Roland Joffé’s The Mission. The core plot centres on a cross country journey by a group of monks who are carrying a historic holy relic across Ireland. The relic is bound for Rome at the request of the Pope. But before Rome, they must reach the mecca of Waterford.

It is trip that is fraught with danger and uncertainty in a politically unstable and violent Ireland. Along the way we see some stunning scenery. The photography at times has a bleak and mournful quality in keeping with the physical and internal journeys of the pilgrims. There is a genuine feeling of being transported back to a different Ireland replete with warring tribes, some of whom are in league with the Norman conquerors.

Muldowney’s debut feature film in 2011 was as writer/director of Savage. The production company adopted the title and retained the name of Savage Productions for subsequent productions including this one. That title could equally have been applied to this film even though Pilgrimage is set eight centuries earlier.

Some scenes in Pilgrimage are not for the faint-hearted. The film opens with an execution by stoning. That is mild fare compared to what follows. There is an extended and brutal torture sequence later on. The film felt very authentic in terms of the period detail and it could be argued that such violence was an integral part of that era. But it made for uncomfortable viewing.

There were at least four languages featured in the film (at the last count), which also seemed authentic in the context of the plot.

The ensemble cast were collectively very well cast and credible. This included Tom Holland (who has since been cast as Spiderman) in the role of the Young Novice. Holland is clearly a very talented actor and the story might have benefitted from more development of his internal and external journey in parallel with the journey at the core of the story.

John Lynch and Hugh O’Connor were also well cast among the band of brothers who as the journey progressed seemed to have a growing sense of fear and foreboding.

I had some misgivings around the portrayal of the Monk from Rome who was acting as the Pope’s envoy. This character who was essentially a religious zealot, seemed a little stereotyped.

Jon Bernthal as a Mute, despite having no dialogue, nevertheless managed to convey a great deal.

The score, composed by Stephen McKeon, was impressive from the start. The religious and monastic themes in Pilgrimage were adroitly complemented throughout by the sound-track. The music had a plaintive quality which appeared to resonate especially with the emotional journey of the monks.

 

Brian O Tiomain

96 minutes
18 (See IFCO for details)

Pilgrimage is released 12th July 2017

Pilgrimage  – Official Website

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‘Pilgrimage’ in cinemas from 14th July

Brendan Muldowney’s Pilgrimage will be released in Irish cinemas on July 14th. The Irish action-thriller has wowed festival audiences, following its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2017 and its UK premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival on June 24th 2017.

Pilgrimage will have its Irish premiere at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh on July 13th  and Irish audiences will have the chance to catch it in cinemas the following day. Pilgrimage’s cast includesing Tom Holland, Jon Bernthal and Richard Armitage.

Pilgrimage follows a small group of monks as they undertake a treacherous pilgrimage to escort their monastery’s holiest relic to Rome. But, as the true material, political and religious significance of the relic is revealed, the group’s journey becomes increasingly fraught with danger. Ultimately, the faith that binds the men together threatens to be the very same thing that will tear them apart.

The film was written by Jamie Hannigan and was produced by Conor Barry and John Keville of Dublin-based production outfit Savage Productions and Benoit Roland of Wrong Men. XYZ Films executive produced the film, with RLJ Entertainment taking domestic rights.

The film was shot on location for over seven weeks on the West Coast of Ireland and the Ardennes Region of Belgium, and was developed with the assistance of the Bord Scannán na hÉireann/Irish Film Board and Creative Europe and was financed by Bord Scannán na hÉireann/Irish Film Board, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and Wallimage, Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles and BNP Paribas Fortis Film Finance.

 

http://filmireland.net/2017/06/05/irish-films-in-cinema-2017/

 

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‘Pilgrimage’ to Commence Production

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Irish director Brendan Muldowney’s latest film Pilgrimage is scheduled to commence production in April 2015 and shoot for over seven weeks on the West Coast of Ireland and the Ardennes Region of Belgium.

 

Written by Jamie Hannigan, the film is set in 13th century Ireland and follows a small group of monks as they undertake a treacherous pilgrimage to escort their monastery’s holiest relic to Rome. But, as the true material, political and religious significance of the relic is revealed; the group’s journey becomes increasingly fraught with danger. Ultimately, the faith that binds the men together threatens to be the very same thing that will tear them apart.

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