The scene: A bunch of Pres boys stand around ad libbing about rebellion in a Ken Loach film. Including yer man Cillian Murphy who was a couple of years behind my brother in school (clang).
Me (sotto voce): God they’re dreadful, do you think that they’ll be with us for long?
Mr. Waffle: I’d say we’re stuck with this lot until 1923.
Leader of flying column, Teddy O’Donovan, ad libs on why they must support the treaty: We have to give this thing a green light.
Mr. Waffle: What’s a green light Teddy?
Alas, I know very little about Irish history and I kept having to ask Mr. Waffle for important historical information like, when did the War of Independence end and what was the name of the famous guy from North Cork? Truce was summer 1921 and Tom Barry, since you ask. He hissed at me “didn’t you do any history at all in school?” I replied with great dignity that I had given up history at 15 and stopped at the Renaissance and I could tell him all about the great Florentine painters later.
It was my choice. I wanted to see a Cork film. And there were lots of Cork accents which was entertaining. Although the socialist was from Dublin, as Mr. Waffle said, no one would believe in a Cork socialist. But Cork was burnt down by the Black and Tans, so you would think that it might feature in the flick but, as my mother would say, devil a bit. In fact, I didn’t recognise anywhere they filmed though I see it was shot on location in county Cork. And the dialogue was desperately clunky. I loved Ken Loach’s film “Raining Stones”, I think it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I really hated “Land and Freedom” though which was about the Spanish civil war which featured the same kind of exposition as this film. Lots of scenes with young revolutionaries sitting down and setting out their reasons for fighting. Desperately tedious stuff.
I have no idea why this film got rave reviews (in the English papers) and a palme d’or, perhaps it’s because the English feel guilty about Ireland and the French always enjoy a film that is mean to the British.
Still dire and all as it was, it did make me think. I mean we all knew that the Black and Tans were brutal and that our grandparents were all involved in the war of independence – Mr. Waffle’s grandfather’s house was burnt down by the Black and Tans and my grandmother, who worked in the telephone exchange, used to pass on to the IRA messages she heard passed between British army officers. But our grandparents, they were so law abiding, as Mr. Waffle said, the most conservative revolutionaries ever. I did hear about some old fella who fought the war of independence refusing to go to the reinstated commemoration parade for 1916 because, as he put it, the State had an army for years and why hadn’t it invaded Northern Ireland. You have to admire a man who sticks to his principles.