“Older Than Ireland”
Directed by Alex Fegan
So I found myself, as I’m sure most people did, a little lost this past Sunday. Very sad, extremely angry and possessing very little hope for the human race…at least in our country. So, after way too many hours in front of the news, I went for a bite and a film. I had seen the trailer for “Older Than Ireland” and remembered thinking that it looked pretty interesting. I also remember thinking, I’ll never understand half of the subjects interviewed due to the DEEP Irish accents – spoken by people over the age of 100. But, when I saw it would be subtitled in the theater (even though it was not in the trailer), I decided to go.
A more life-affirming choice I could not have found if I tried. The film is nothing more than a series of expertly edited interviews with centenarian citizens of the Republic of Ireland (hence the title, as Ireland just celebrated the centennial of the 1916 uprising). These people, FILLED as they are with experience, wisdom, humor, sorrow, wit, boredom, regret and love, fill you with hope and joy. You will LAUGH. Not an artificial laugh, but a true laugh borne of how alike we are at our core. And you will cry at the realization that the core is all that is important when one has walked the earth for so long. It will make your first world problems seem ridiculous, even while instructing you that it’s perfectly okay to have them in the first place.
Alex Fegan, whose only previous full-length documentary was the delightful, “The Irish Pub”, knows how to craft a film, exclusively made up of talking heads, better than most. By using well-timed cuts, incredibly interesting camera work (Colm Nicell’s framing is masterful), and a true appreciation for these fine people, he avoids ANY sense of redundancy or stagnation. The subjects themselves range in locale, attitude, experience, point-of-view, and demeanor. These differences, in combination with the director’s editing skill, is what energizes the comedy of the piece. And, I assure you, it is, at times, incredibly funny. Looking back on it, had someone been watching me while I witnessed the film, they would have thought, “why won’t he stop grinning like that?”
But MOST notably…he stays utterly out of their way. He never interjects and you never hear his voice. The silences are sometimes minutes long, certainly more than we know how to live with in the day-to-day, and they are both devastating and incredibly communicative. It’s such a joy to see a director be unconcerned that nothing is being said…to have enough faith in the concept that he can just…sit WITH them. There is IMMENSE power in watching these human beings locate their memories, and, even more affecting, to see how the accompanying feelings brought on by these memories, change their facial expressions – sometimes three or four times a pause. As a therapist, I assure you, sitting in silence can be the hardest thing to do in the room. It is, however, the most human and humane manner of support and acknowledgement. In the context of the film, it is breathtaking.
Denis Clohessy’s music is very apropos of both situation and subject. However, it is JUST this side of cheesy and maybe even verges on being obvious. Nonetheless, it successfully acts as a bridge for changes in topic of conversation, which, in the end, is all it must accomplish.
This is a very small film that will fill you with very big emotions. And if ever there were a remotely effective antidote to the feeling of abject horror we woke up to that day, “Older Than Ireland” might be it. I cannot recommend this film highly enough when and if it comes to a theater or streaming service near you.
New trailer WITH subtitles!
Written on 6/15/2016