Megan Clark | Where’s the Craic?
An introduction to Irish film
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 01:09
No, I’m not soliciting illegal drugs. In Ireland, “craic” means fun, so to ask “Where’s the craic?” is like asking “Where’s the party?” or “What’s happening?” And I’ll tell you what’s happening: Irish cinema! While not always a laugh a minute — in fact, the Irish are fairly infamous for the gloom and doom of their storytelling — Irish film, I find, is enjoyable and fascinating due to its self−awareness. Many Irish movies focus on historical events of particular importance to the country, social issues and stereotypes of the Irish national character — whether they support or disprove the concept of a uniform Irish type.
In this column, I will cover various films that address these themes. These films will include “In the Name of the Father” (1993), which is based upon the events surrounding the Guildford Pub Bombings in 1974, “The Boxer” (1997), which explores life within and outside of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during “The Troubles,” a period of conflict in Northern Ireland, and “The Guard” (2011), which studies the Irish “type” by portraying a clash between Irish and American cultures.
This column will focus on famous Irish directors, such as Jim Sheridan, and famous Irish actors, such as Cillian Murphy and the British−Irish Daniel Day−Lewis. The films covered will range from dramatic biopics to black comedies — as previously mentioned, the Irish struggle with levity. For each of these films, I will analyze what makes them uniquely Irish and explain why I love them and why you should too.
You may be asking yourself, “What’s so special about Ireland?” or “What’s your point?” or even “Where’s the craic?” What makes Ireland special for me is its history and the way its history has impacted its literature, culture and film. Throughout its history, Ireland has been characterized by division coupled with unification movements. It has incorporated many elements of English culture, including its language, into its national heritage while constantly striving to subvert and break free of British domination. This history has had a profound effect upon Ireland’s modes of storytelling — in the way tragedy and humor are intertwined and in the way that Irish characters are portrayed by Irish and non−Irish artists.
But why should you listen to anything I have to say about Irish movies? While I am Irish by descent, my family has been living in the US for five generations, I spell my very Irish name — Megan, in case you’ve forgotten since the byline — in a very Anglicized way and I’ve never even been to Ireland. So, what gives me any authority to speak about anything Irish? Perhaps it’s my fascination with Irish history and literature. Or maybe it’s that I’m listening to The Cranberries as I write this. Maybe I derive authority from my fairly disconcerting obsession with Daniel Day−Lewis. Maybe it’s because I’ll be studying abroad in Dublin next semester.
I think not, though. Honestly, I have no authority, no credentials. I’m earnest and maybe even over−the−top, but ultimately all I can do is tell you a little about these excellent movies, implore you to watch them and see what happens. Will watching these movies make you a better person? No, that’s what books and charitable works are for. But I do think these movies will make you examine certain aspects of human nature. And they’ll entertain you, which is ultimately the point of watching a movie.
So, I invite you to join me on this journey through Irish cinema. Next week we will start with “In the Name of the Father,” the movie that got me hooked on all things Irish.
Megan Clark is a junior majoring in history. She can be reached at Megan.Clark@tufts.edu.