Megan Clark | Where’s The Craic?
A guided tour of Irish film
Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 08:09
Where’s the craic?” is an Irish slang phrase that translates roughly to “What’s up?” or “Where’s the fun?” While the spelling of “craic” (pronounced crack) suggests an ancient Gaelic origin, it is actually derived from 19th century English and Scottish usage. At the time, it was spelled “crack” and usually meant “gossip.” It was not until the 1950s that “crack” entered Irish parlance and was used to refer to gossip, news or fun. In the last few decades, the spelling of “crack” has evolved into the pseudo-Gaelic “craic” and is now culturally and conversationally ubiquitous.
Just as “craic” combines current and historical concepts, I hope for this column to explore current themes in Irish film and the historical context that informs these themes. Every week I will examine a different movie, usually from the early 1990s to the present day. My goal is to present a wide range of films, encompassing historical dramas and family comedies. This is a continuation of the column I wrote last year, in which I focused heavily on movies involving the Irish director Jim Sheridan and the Irish-British actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Sheridan and Day-Lewis first introduced me to the pleasures and complexities of Irish film, and I will revisit their movies again and again.
However, this year I plan to introduce readers to some less well-known but prolific actors such as Colm Meaney, Fionnula Flanagan and Liam Cunningham (who appears in “Game of Thrones”). I will also be reviewing book-to-film adaptations of several novels by the Irish author Roddy Doyle, all of which showcase life in working class Dublin.
I myself am a relative newcomer to Irish film and am really looking forward to learning about new movies with the Daily’s readers. I recently spent a semester in Dublin and arrived thinking I was pretty hot stuff due to my intimate knowledge of the Sheridan-Day-Lewis canon. I was quickly knocked off my high horse, however, when I realized the huge holes in my Irish movie arsenal. While my favorite movies were all filmed in or after the 1990s, most of them deal with rather bleak historical matter, usually the Irish Revolution, Civil War or the more recent “Troubles” in Northern Ireland.
After spending a significant amount of time in modern Dublin, I realized that it is a unique place — clearly a city, but with a familiarity amongst people that evokes the feeling of a small town. Many of the comedies I intend to review, especially the ones based on Roddy Doyle novels, feature various small communities of Dublin and the way their members interact in both supportive and contentious ways.
While films from within and outside the country’s borders depict the older generations of Ireland as particularly understated, the younger Irish are presented as much more extreme and often in violation of various social taboos. This cinematic and literary tradition is reflected in the speech of actual Irish youth. Words like “dire” and “bleak” are thrown around with great frequency. For example, an Irish university student might say to another one, “Have you been reading this American’s column on Irish movies? It’s dire.” And people really do use the word “craic.” Therefore, you could ask your friend, “Where’s the craic?” and they might respond, “The girls and I are watching ‘The Snapper.’ I just adore its depiction of familial love and support amidst a small, moralizing community.”
Thank you in advance for taking this tour with me. I must warn you that the first review of the year is, to use the Irish parlance, rather bleak, but also philosophically fascinating — tune in next week for “Hunger” (2008).
Megan Clark is a senior majoring in English and history. She can be reached at Megan.Clark@tufts.edu.