Calvary (John Michael McDonagh, 2011) Brendan Gleeson, Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, M. Emmet Walsh; threatened during a confession, good-natured priest battles the dark forces closing in around him

After I watched John Michael McDonagh's film, I read the review in Sight and Sound. It tells the whole story. The only 'criticism' it proffered was based on what the director had himself said about the film, and which probably came in the press kit - including the bullshit about Bresson, and 'transcendant cinema'.

In writing the brief notes in these pages, I have prolly erred too far in the other direction, as I've really tried to say as little as possible about the story, and the few smartarse remarks I do make prolly mean nothing to readers who haven't seen the film (assuming there are any readers at all).

In this case, however, I have to give away the fact that this was a very tough film to get through. Until the last ten minutes, when it was becoming clear that what was going to happen was simply inevitable, the film filled me with real foreboding, something like the Greek concept of catharsis which was supposed to be induced by performances of dramas such as Oedipus Rex. I really wanted to escape from the film, but was compelled to see it through to the end.

The aerial shots of formidable Irish landscape combined with deep droning sounds have nothing to do with the story, but seem somehow to become analogous to the story's inherent emotions, or what T.S. Eliot called an 'objective correlative'.

Chris O'Dowd almost doesn't get away with playing a non-comedy role. Dylan Moran, on the other hand, shows that he is a true actor, as well as all the other amazing things he is.

Finally, I now want to see The Guard (John Michael McDonagh, 2011) again - as soon as possible.

References and Links

Eliot, T.S. 1921, 'Hamlet and his problems', The Sacred Wood, Methuen, 1920

Schrader, Paul 1972, Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer, Da Capo Press.

Romney, Jonathan 2016, 'Film of the week: Calvary', Sight and Sound. [Don't read this if you haven't seen the film; otherwise there's no point in seeing it.]

Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 19 March, 2017 | Now: 31 December, 2022