Friday, March 30, 2012

April at the IFI

Welcome to the IFI’s April programme and a month long celebration of Carl Dreyer, one of the 20th century’s unsung cinematic greats. 

Carl Dreyer's Vampyr

This month’s major retrospective of the best of Carl Dreyer’s films provides a unique opportunity to experience the full range of this great director’s work on the big screen, and to see for yourself why film critics claim him as one of the masters of cinema. Two of his silent classics, The Passion of Joan of Arc and Master of the House, will be screened with live musical accompaniment, giving a rare chance to experience silent film as it was intended, mirroring the experience of audiences in the '20s. For a more contemporary synthesis of sound and music, we will be showing Vampyr again on May 18th with a live performance of his new score by Steven Severin, acclaimed solo artist and founding member of Siouxsie and the Banshees. And for those of you who want to find out more about Dreyer, don’t miss Peter Walsh’s talk on April 18th at 2.30pm.

La Havre

Building on our teen club, we’ve a film frenzy this month offering all those aged 15 to 18 a chance to explore a huge range of films from our programme  at a very small price. For €3, teens can choose from films like The Kid With a Bike, Le Havre, Into the Abyss, Marley and many more. With this special offer which runs every day for the month of April, from 1pm-6pm, young film fans can enjoy a different kind of cinema for only €3 and get every fourth screening for FREE. Spread the word and tell any budding cineastes you know – for more information please see

To celebrate Ireland’s recent Oscar victory, we will be screening The Shore every Sunday throughout April at 13.10. The screenings are free and a great opportunity to see this beautiful story of hope and reconciliation on the big screen. Directed by Belfast’s Terry George, and produced with his daughter Oorlagh, The Shore stars Ciarán Hinds, Conleth Hill and Kerry Condon and should not be missed.

The Oscar-winning The Shore

Finally I have to say a word of goodbye, as I will be leaving the IFI at the start of April to take up the role of Director of IMMA. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the fantastic team at the IFI, the Board, and many, many colleagues in the wider film community who have made my time here as Director so rewarding and enjoyable! It has been an honour and a privilege to work at the IFI. I truly believe it is one of Ireland’s most important, relevant and loved cultural organisations, and I look forward to joining in the 20th anniversary celebrations in September. But most of all I want to thank you, the audience, for continuing to make the IFI what it is and making all our work here so worthwhile.

Sarah Glennie

The Passion of Carl Dreyer retrospective continues at the IFI from 1st-29th April 2012. For more information on films and bookings, please contact our Box Office on 01-679 3477 or visit the season's page [here]. 

Carl Dreyer Season: The Early Films

The Passion of Carl Dreyer, a major retrospective of one of cinema's most influential directors, from 1st-29th April 2012 at the IFI.

Although the IFI has regular screenings of classic films, usually when they are re-released in new or restored versions, large retrospectives devoted to the work of one director are somewhat rarer. Such programmes are difficult and sometimes expensive to mount, not least because print sources and rights holders (often completely different entities) are not always easy to locate. One has to have good reason to undertake such a mission, especially if it involves importing prints from four different countries, setting up your own electronic subtitling system, running 35mm projectors at slower speeds than normal, translating inter-titles, and arranging musical accompaniment for silent titles. Getting the Carl Dreyer season on screen involved all these tasks, but I’m sure that seeing the work will prove it worthwhile, perhaps even revelatory.

Dreyer’s reputation as one of the all-time great directors largely rests on a few well-known titles, The Passion of Joan of Arc (his last silent picture), Vampyr (1932), Day of Wrath (1943) and Ordet (The Word, 1955). But his range was much greater than even these extraordinary films suggest, and his relatively short filmography (fourteen features) includes comedies and romantic dramas as well as tragedies. He started out working in a highly commercial Danish studio system whose rigid codes and working methods he often managed to subvert. He went on to make films in Sweden, Germany and France before returning to Denmark for the latter part of his career. From the beginning he sought to establish a quality cinema that could stand comparison with the other arts. His inspiration came from literature and the theatre, but his work was always highly cinematic and drew from such masters of the silent screen as Victor Sjöström, Mauritz Stiller, Sergei Eisenstein and D. W. Griffith.

Ordet, restored and re-released from April 13th-19th

The IFI retrospective is not complete and excludes Dreyer’s first two features, The President (1919) and Leaves from Satan’s Book (1919), which are more than mere apprentice works but where the influence of Griffith’s Intolerance (1916) is so overwhelming that it drowns out the director’s characteristic subtlety. Dreyer’s first major film is The Parson’s Widow (1920), a ribald yet tender tale set in 17th century rural Norway. Demolishing the myth that Dreyer lacked a sense of humour, The Parson’s Widow is a charming comedy about a young theology student who enters a competition to become a village pastor. He wins the post, but then discovers that a local custom dictates that he must marry his predecessor’s seventy-something widow. The film begins as a robust comedy, complete with physical gags and a stunning use of landscape, but it gradually morphs into a sensitive portrait of the things that unite and separate the generations.

Dreyer’s next film, Love One Another (1920), suffers from some of the melodramatic excesses and simplifications of his early work, but it’s still an impressively mounted epic about the anti-Semitic pogroms in 1905 Russia. Not the least of its achievements is Dreyer’s deft handling of the incredibly complicated plot of Aage Madelung’s source novel. As usual, Dreyer put an enormous amount of effort into getting every detail of period and setting right, but the characterisations are too schematic and crude (“everyone is either very, very good or very, very wicked, and is given an acting performance to match”, as critic Tom Milne observed) to make for the kind of development and revelation of character that is a hallmark of Dreyer’s best work.

Once Upon a Time 

Long considered a lost film, Once upon a Time (1922) has now been restored by the Danish Film Institute, with stills and titles being used to fill in the gaps created by missing scenes. A work of exceptional visual beauty, it’s a sort of variation on The Taming of the Shrew, part folk-lore and part fairy-tale, about a bored princess who rejects all her suitors until confronted by a prince who whisks her off to a humble cottage in the forest. Dreyer said that, in retrospect, he regretted concentrating on the whimsical-magical atmosphere at the expense of characterisation, but this is still a lovely and wholly enchanting film.

Dreyer’s growing reputation led him to make many films abroad, and one of the most exotic is Michael (1924), an expensive art movie produced by the mighty Ufa studios in Germany. Based on a 1902 novel by Herman Bang, this period romance is both elaborately theatrical and remarkably restrained. At its centre are an aging artist (brilliantly played by Swedish director Benjamin Christensen of Häxan fame), his handsome young protégé and a cash-strapped princess who’s really a femme fatale intent on robbing the old man. Despite the large budget, elaborate décor and overpowering atmosphere of German expressionism, Dreyer concentrates on the characters and their interactions. Betrayed by his love object, who falls for the princess, the artist becomes a hermit and loses the will to live. Significantly, though, he manages to create one final magnificent painting before he dies, uttering the words, “Now I can die in peace, for I have seen a great love.” A chamber piece about a handful of characters in which all significant things remain unspoken, Michael is pure Dreyer and pure cinema, with the camera concentrating on the characters’ glances, facial expressions and the objects that surround them.

The Bride of Glomdal

Before moving on to Master of the House (1925), which is arguably the finest of Dreyer’s silent films, it’s worth saying a little about The Bride of Glomdal (1926) since this little gem is not well known or highly rated by most critics. Like The Parson’s Widow, it is firmly rooted in the landscapes and traditions of Norway and tells a familiar story about thwarted young love. Tore, son of a poor farmer, loves Berit, daughter of a rich one, but she is promised by her father to another man whom she does not love and whom she refuses to marry. Injured in a fall from her horse while running away, and cast out by her father, Berit is cared for by Tore’s parents until reconciliation is effected through the local parson. The marriage goes ahead, but not before Tore, subjected to a revenge plot by his furious rival, has had to make a hazardous crossing of the river on horseback and by swimming the rapids.

The Bride of Glomdal may be a minor film—Dreyer himself described it as “a little folk tale”—but Master of the House is a deceptively simple masterpiece. In his book on Dreyer,(1) Tom Milne provides a wonderful account of the film, from which the following is an extract.

Master of the House

Master of the House (sometimes also known as Thou Shalt Honour Thy Wife, a direct translation of the somewhat forbiddingly biblical title chosen by Dreyer; the original play was more appropriately titled The Fall of a Tyrant) is my own personal favourite among Dreyer’s films with the possible exceptions of Vampyr and Gertrud, and its golden simplicity almost defies description. Ida Frandsen (played by the enchanting Astrid Holm), married some fifteen years, is a perfect wife and mother, but her tetchy husband Victor (Johannes Meyer) finds fault with everything she does. She bears it all patiently until her mother and Victor’s old nanny, unable to stand it any longer, crossly persuade her to hit back by leaving him, temporarily at least. Reluctantly she does so, only to find her absence prolonged by a nervous breakdown. Meanwhile, nanny takes charge, deliberately undermining Victor’s creature comforts until he at last realises, not only how hard Ida worked, but how much he loves her, and they are reconciled. From this rather unpromising material, drawn from a play by Svend Rindom who collaborated on the adaptation, Dreyer fashioned a richly detailed film that is charming, funny and intensely moving in roughly equal proportions. [. . .]

“Within its limits, Master of the House is perfection, with the raw materials of cinema so rigidly pared down and controlled that the faces, gestures and movements become the landscape of the film. As Dreyer himself put it: “What I look for in my films, what I want to do, is to penetrate, by way of their most subtle expressions, to the deepest thoughts of my actors. For it is these expressions which reveal the personality of a character, his unconscious feelings, the secrets hidden deep within his soul?” Clearly Dreyer had no further to go in the area of human reality, but before he began to probe the secrets of the soul, he paused for the joyful interlude of The Bride of Glomdal, rightly considered as a minor event in his career, but wrongly held by almost every critic who has written about Dreyer’s work to be an inferior film.”

Peter Walsh

The Passion of Carl Dreyer retrospective continues at the IFI from 1st-29th April 2012. for more information on films and bookings, please contact our Box Office on 01-679 3477 or visit the season's page [here]. 

 Dreyer’s later films will be covered in a forthcoming blog.

(1)The Cinema of Carl Dreyer by Tom Milne (Tantivy Press, 1971)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Into The Abyss: A Tale Of Death, A Tale Of Life

If Cave of Forgotten Dreams, one of the IFI’s most successful films of last year, appealed to audiences because of its unique inquiry into the origins of human creativity, then Werner Herzog’s latest venture Into the Abyss – a study of a triple murder and capital punishment case in Conroe, Texas – should draw crowds for its equally discerning ruminations on the culture and practice of annihilation. 

Working again with Creative Differences, the production company which Herzog made Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End Of the World as well as Cave of Forgotten Dreams with, Into the Abyss (opening exclusively at the IFI from March 30th) almost immediately distinguishes itself from other documentaries on the subject of the death penalty when, less than five minutes into the film, Herzog invites the Reverend Richard Lopez, a Death House Chaplain to “describe an encounter with a squirrel”. 

While this idiosyncratic approach is typical of the kind of humour that often characterizes Herzog’s films, Into the Abyss is a profound and serious film which casts a poetic, philosophical gaze over the remnants of heinous crime and its effects, as well as the lengthy and, from some perspectives, torturous system of capital punishment still in place across 34 states. Albeit unusual, Herzog’s questions are often a means of disarming his subjects, many of whom are participants in the deeply ritualistic process of capital punishment, who struggle not to employ the indoctrinated language with which it is associated. In important respects, Herzog poses as sociologist, attempting to look at things, as criminologist David Garland describes, “from the point of view of the participants and the social world they occupy.”[1]

Werner Herzog 

Although opposed to the death penalty (a fact made clear in his press notes as well as in the film itself), Herzog does not incite the kind of discourse which typifies and forms part of public engagement with the death penalty in America. For instance he passes up the opportunity even to draw reference to Rick Perry, current Governor of Texas, outspoken champion of the death penalty (234 executions have been carried out in the state since Perry assumed his role 11 years ago) and figure of both hate and ridicule for anyone with vague leanings toward the left (see his campaign video ‘Strong’ for further insight into his strange and alarming perspectives). 

While viewing events from his subjects’ perspectives, Herzog also acts as outsider, playing, as he describes it “the Bavarian from the mountains”, provoking responses from his subjects that blur the line between confession and performance. As a result, Into the Abyss does not fit neatly into any pre-conceived notions of what a documentary film is. Instead, it is distinctly Herzogian, enacting some of his trademark and most effective devices, particularly in the rolling footage sequences of Texas scenery – unpeopled sidewalks, trailer parks, abandoned petrol stations, prison gates and religious slogans – held up as a mirror to the inner turmoil of the people in the film. As one critic has described, “Herzog wants his landscapes to talk back to us and to the figures that populate them, yet from his point of view they have nothing to express but their wholesale indifference.”[2] Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the episode in which Herzog visits the police impounding lot to see the stolen car for which its owner was killed. Here, an officer explains that at one stage during the 10 years the vehicle has been in custody, a tree growing in the soil beneath it pushed up with such force that it burst through the bottom of the car.  

Much like Herzog’s film Stroszek, which he also shot in America, Into the Abyss is a kind of eulogy to a place, haunted in parts by senseless crime and aimless drifter existence.  Herzog says Stroszek, a film about a down-and-out street performer from Berlin who emigrates to Wisconsin, North Carolina, “is about shattered hopes”, a theme which also features heavily in Into the Abyss.  As in earlier films, Herzog attempts here to illustrate his own idea “that our civilization is like a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos and darkness”.[3]  In this way, Into the Abyss explores universal themes, using the peculiar institution of the death penalty in Texas as a means of posing broader questions, and doubts, about the notion of punishment as a symbol of retribution.

There will be a preview screening of Into the Abyss plus satellite Q&A with Werner Herzog at the IFI on March 27th at 18.20.

Alice Butler

Into the Abyss opens EXCLUSIVELY at the IFI on March 30th. 

[1] Garland, David, Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition, Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 14
[2] Prager, Brad, The Cinema of Werner Herzog: Aesthetic Ecstasy and Truth, Wallflower Press, 2007, p. 14
[3] Cronin, Paul (ed.), Herzog on Herzog, Faber and Faber, 2002, p. 2

Monday, March 26, 2012

This Is Not a Film

The history of Iranian cinema is a narrative caught between censorship and poetry. Since the inception of the medium, film practitioners have been subject to exile, censure, imprisonment and execution. Jafar Panahi is, rather depressingly, the latest in a long line of cinematic martyrs.

And yet despite these pressures, Iranian filmmakers have managed to make sublime works of personal art with universal resonance. This Is Not a Film (opening this Friday, March 30th, exclusively at the IFI) continues this trend. It sets itself as a passionate cry against what the poet and writer Gholam Hossein Saedi calls the desire “of the state to control the peoples’ daily existence and routines but also...the way each of them thinks, even in their moments of privacy.”

In this, Panahi’s last film before the silence of his prison sentence descends, he has used cinema as a means of projecting a freedom of the mind that allows him to question and surpass the terms of his oppressors. He shows the absurdity and futility of planning projects never to made, the frustration of attempting to talk a film into existence, all as passionate acts of the imagination. In doing so he exhibits a controlled anger in the face of the cruelty of a system that is inhuman and dehumanising. This cruelty and the filmmaker’s response to it is laid bare in one of the most mesmerising and heartbreaking scenes in cinema. Stepping outside the confines of his apartment, Panahi and his camera take an elevator ride with a young student who is collecting garbage from each floor of the apartment building. A long extended take, it serves as treatise on storytelling (how to tell a story, what constitutes a story, why tell a story), the insatiable drive of the camera and filmmaker to document, record, and chronicle the intertwined politics of the personal and the people, all in the passionate questioning pursuit of the real, of truth.

For Panahi’s cinema is nothing if not concerned with the art and artifice of cinema itself. The constructed nature of his first feature The White Balloon, the obsession with narrative circularity in The Circle and Crimson Gold, the self reflexivity of The Mirror, all attest to this fact. He cannot detach himself from his cinema, is defined by it and finds meaning in the search for meaning. Here it is a sign of inner liberty. His very existence an act of rebellion. A rebellion channelled as a social commitment to freedom, humanity and understanding in the face of oppression and which serves as a bulwark against the fear of indifference. It is an at times an unbearably honest portrait of the artist as both tyrant and victim of tyranny. For in creating there is a poetic brutality, a necessary cruelty from which he never shies away. This Is Not a Film is an astonishing work. It is a film. It is cinema. It is essential.

Eric Egan

This Is Not a Film runs EXCLUSIVELY at the IFI from March 30th - April 5th. For more information and bookings, please contact our Box Office on 01 679 3477, or visit our website

Watch film trailer here:

Friday, March 23, 2012

New DVD releases available from IFI Film Shop

From Oscar-nominated feature films to ... 'The Sopranos in Middle-Earth' - new DVD releases available from IFI Film Shop.

On the surface, a film about baseball and statistics, based on a non-fiction (albeit best-selling) book doesn’t sound too appealing, yet Bennett (Capote) Miller’s critically-acclaimed Moneyball was one of 2011’s most pleasant surprises.  Brad Pitt plays a beleaguered baseball manager who teams up with a young economics graduate (Jonah Hill) to pioneer a radical new approach to team selection, eschewing star players in favour of statistics.

Mysteries of Lisbon
Director Raúl Ruiz died last year and Mysteries of Lisbon was his last (completed) film. This beautifully observed epic melodrama easily ranks as one of the finest films of the last year.  

The Ides of March

Ides of March 
As another election year rolls around in the U.S., it’s worth checking out George Clooney’s political drama The Ides of March. Ryan Gosling plays an idealistic press secretary whose loyalty to a Democratic Presidential candidate (Clooney) is challenged by the murky realities of political life. A strong supporting cast includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei and Paul Giametti.

Game of Thrones
George R. R. Martin’s sprawling fantasy series has been various described as “The Sopranos in Middle-Earth” or a Dark Age version of The Wire.. Either way, the story of powerful families vying for power in a vague-familiar medieval setting (mostly shot in Northern Ireland) is a compelling one, described by the Guardian as “one of those rare points when fantasy grows up”.


Hugo (available from mid-April)
Just like The Artist, Martin Scorcese’s Hugo is a love-letter to a bygone era of cinema, this time of Georges Méliès and the Lumière brothers. Hugo marks Scorcese’s 3D debut, and the master clearly relishes the unique challenges presented by the format. The eclectic cast includes Asa Butterfield, Ray Winstone, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law and Christopher Lee.

IFI Film Shop, 6 Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Phone: 01 679 5727 

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If you have a specific query or need further help, please ask our staff who will be happy to assist you with all your shopping needs and specialist searches!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

From the darkness of the sewers to the Oscar gala

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, Polish drama In Darkness tells a remarkable story of survival during the Holocaust: a group of Jews hid for 14 months in the sewers of Lvov after the destruction of the ghetto above. The IFI talked to Polish director Agnieszka Holland about the film at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

She may have lost out on an Oscar to critically-acclaimed A Separation, yet Agnieszka Holland seems to have a bigger picture in mind when talking about her recent release, In Darkness (W ciemności). Tackling the Holocaust, she seems to follow Andrzej Wajda’s (the Academy-winning director of Man of Iron and Katyn) urge to constantly remind the audience of the horrors of the war.

“In contrary to Andrzej [Wajda], I don’t see myself as a preacher. Yes, undoubtedly, we must never forget, otherwise we may slip into that madness so easily. But personally in making the film I wanted to question some stereotypes that we have about those different to us, whom we meet more and more often in this globalised world. I wanted to make a film about empathy, to make people wonder: what would I do? Which side of the conflict would I take? So far my film has received a great response from people who can engage with these emotions”. 

In telling a story of a group of Jews in hiding, Agnieszka Holland skilfully avoids the temptation to portray her characters in monochrome.

“Among the millions of people who were killed in the Holocaust, there were all sorts of individuals. Seemingly virtuous ones may have turned immoral in no time. There were no written rules. That’s why I wanted to depict them as living human beings, unlike some mystical shadows with neither face nor flesh. Unfortunately, in many Holocaust dramas, Jews are usually pictured as some faultless group of angels, quietly waiting for their fate to be fulfilled. I have spoken to many survivors, people who were in Auschwitz, and they like my film for its realism. Although, when I was first asked to make this film, I was totally against it! I was worried that the audience wouldn’t be interested in yet another movie about the Holocaust. And I was afraid of this heavy burden that I was just about to take on my shoulders – it’s a difficult task, to talk about the Holocaust, you know. But I don’t regret it.”

Agnieszka Grochowska as Klara Keller

In Darkness is beautifully shot in between two contrasting worlds: dark and claustrophobic sewers under the ghetto, and grim reality of a daily struggle for survival in the Nazi-occupied city of Lvov. Thanks to cinematographer Joanna Dylewska, the titular darkness becomes an effective metaphor for the fate of the Jewish people during the Holocaust.

“It was Joanna’s idea to use the light and darkness to tell their story. When Socha choses a group of fourteen people to show them a place of hiding, the rest is left behind in that fading light. During the filming, I was insisting on shooting even darker frames, as I was obsessed with the reality of that underground world, so it’s been quite a challenge, both from an artistic and a technical point of view.”

It was only when the film was in post-production that Holland discovered one of the survivors from the sewers is still alive and they met with Krystyna Chiger who had published her memoirs The Girl In the Green Sweater, in Toronto.

“I never heard of Krystyna until last year, when my agent got a phone call from her. We did our research before and were sure that all real-life characters were already dead. I was very worried about whether she would like the film. But she loved it and her reaction was very emotional and positive. And now she’s going to attend an Academy Awards ceremony with us. From the sewers to the Oscars, that’s quite something!”

Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz) and Krystyna Chiger (Milla Bankowicz

“Krystyna says: We have never made a big tragedy out of the episode in the canals. She is a remarkable person, full of life and joy. Her family, years after the war, did talk about what happened in Lvov; it’s was never a dark secret swept under the carpet. I know many people with equally difficult experiences who are unable to talk about their trauma, and that can eat away at person but Krystyna was always able to talk about it”.

Having been born in communist-ruled Poland, Agnieszka Holland has a few difficult experiences under her belt herself including being imprisoned for six weeks in 1970.

“I remember after being released from prison I used to look at people as the ones I’d like to be jailed with and the ones I’d prefer not to share my prison cell with. It was some sort of a test: who would have been strong enough, who would have been able to cooperate with others and embrace each other in that moment of the greatest challenge. Sometimes people can truly surprise us: they seem to hold strong and then fall apart in a few days time. Marek Edelman [the last surviving leader of the Jewish Uprising in Warsaw] said ‘Love means responsibility’. I believe our character Leopold Socha (Robert Więckiewicz) cares about the ones he loves. That’s why he’s been continuing his risky operation down in the sewer system, helping Jews when they no longer were able to pay him, because he felt responsible for their lives. ‘They are my Jews, mine!’ – he shouts in the final scene of the movie. That’s the biggest mystery out there. In many war-time stories we gain a glimpse of that mystery: of the human spirit and our own weakness, of a fine line between being a hero and becoming a villain. The never ending struggle between good versus evil. There’s been so much already told about it yet we still hardly understand any of this. Well, maybe we are getting a little bit closer, bit by bit?”

In conversation with Anna Paś

Dublin, 22nd February 2012.  

In Darkness continues at the IFI until March 29th. For more information and bookings, please contact our Box Office on 01 679 3477, or book online on

Watch the film trailer here:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Once Upon a Time In Anatolia

This month's programmer's pick is Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Peter Walsh, IFI Cinemas Manager,  explains his choice. 

Beyond all the hype and showbiz hoopla we associate with some of the bigger film festivals, especially Cannes, these high profile jamborees can have a positive effect in establishing reputations for genuinely talented filmmakers whose often challenging work would otherwise go unnoticed by a larger public. The Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan (pronounced ‘Bil-ger Jey-lan’) is a good case in point. Coming late to the cinema (he was trained as an engineer before taking up photography), Ceylan was 36 when he made his first short film, Cocoon (1995). Somewhat surprisingly, Cocoon played in Cannes and the festival programme selectors have continued to showcase his work ever since. No fewer than four of his six features have won major prizes at Cannes, culminating with Once Upon aTime in Anatolia sharing the prestigious Grand Prix last year with The Kid with a Bike (opening on Friday, March 23 at the IFI) by two other festival favourites, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

These awards have not only been well deserved but also invaluable in allowing Ceylan to develop as a filmmaker. He started out with very scant resources, operating almost as a one-man band, doing his own filming and casting friends and family members in leading roles. This modus operandi was entirely appropriate, since Ceylan’s early films were very personal, even semi-autobiographical, and didn’t require movie stars or high production values. To some extent he has continued in the same vein, and he’s certainly the kind of auteur a festival like Cannes loves to champion. Even so, in recent films such as Climates (2006) and Three Monkeys (2008) Ceylan has engaged more directly with wider social and philosophical issues and even flirted with the use of genre conventions. Thus Once Upon a Time in Anatolia has been described as a police procedural, but it’s not at all like your average crime movie and refuses to provide a neat solution to the mystery at the heart of its narrative.

Poster design by Ali Dogramaci

The film opens with a convoy of vehicles travelling along winding roads at night. A group of officials and their assistants are accompanying two men who have confessed to a killing and are attempting to locate the body of the victim. Finding the corpse proves frustratingly difficult, in part because of the sameness of the terrain but also due to the killer’s bad memory. The police chief would like to beat more information out of his prisoners, but he’s restrained by colleagues, who include a doctor and a public prosecutor. As the night draws on, the whole first half of the film develops into a seriocomic drama about this group of men—tired, world-weary professionals who have their own private and professional crosses to bear. There’s a significantly larger cast of characters here than in Ceylan’s earlier work, and the altogether more expansive scope of the film allows him to provide a richer, more nuanced portrait of his society. There’s also much dark humour in the film’s depiction of this group of functionaries getting nowhere fast as they doggedly attempt to follow procedures in a seemingly alien and hostile environment.

Firat Tanis in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Ceylan has always excelled in his use of landscape and weather, but he now surpasses his earlier achievements in a series of truly awesome nocturnal images, with the characters often captured as tiny, insignificant figures in a vast landscape swept by wind, thunder and lightning. In fact, Nature is a powerful force throughout the film, both visually and aurally, and in a few scenes Ceylan seems to acknowledge a debt to the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky as his camera lingers on images of water and trees. There are also echoes of Tarkovsky in Ceylan’s evocative use of still photographs that conjure up memories of family and the past in the minds of his protagonists, who are no doubt seeking some kind of solace from the messy realities of the present. There’s a magical moment about halfway through the film when the men retire to a remote village for sustenance. Hosted by the local mayor, who seizes the opportunity to make some political points about the plight of his village as everything is plunged into darkness by yet another power failure, the city folk are awestruck by the sight of the old man’s beautiful daughter as she gracefully serves them refreshments, with her face illuminated by the light from a lamp she’s carrying on a drinks tray. It’s one of those great cinematic moments; not only poetic and mysterious in its own right, it also points to the absence of women elsewhere in the film.

“I think the human face is the most beautiful landscape,” Ceylan has said. “The face tells you everything. It’s the only way to get to the truth because, most of the time, the words we say are not true. We have a tendency to deceive others to protect ourselves.” (1)

Ceylan’s statement makes perfect sense when one sees his film. The various stories recounted by the main characters are expertly woven together but their veracity is deliberately left open to question. Of equal significance, one feels, are the untold stories, especially that of the chief suspect. Remaining silent throughout most of the film, we learn little about his motivations or what happened at the crime scene, yet his pained, disturbed expressions speak volumes. Similarly, the victim’s widow, who is marginalised and badly treated by the officials, is given a very moving close-up by Ceylan as she identifies her husband’s body and collects his meagre belongings.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the ambiguities built into the very structure of Ceylan’s film don’t constitute mere obfuscation or art-movie pretension. “I don’t like puzzles,” the director says. “But in real life we have to deal with half of reality and we have the habit, or the reflex, of guessing the rest—because we’re always lying to each other. If the audience doesn’t join in the process, it’s impossible to make it deeper, like literature.” (2)

Peter Walsh
IFI Cinemas Manager

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia continues from March 16th - 29th at the IFI. For more information and bookings, please contact our Box Office on 01 679 3477, or book online [here]. 

(1)   From an interview with Benjamin Secher published in The Telegraph.
(2)   From an interview with Jonathan Romney published in The Independent.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Before the gala screening of The Other Side Of Sleep ...

Director Rebecca Daly talks about the upcoming release of her feature, The Other Side of Sleep (opens at the IFI on Thursday, March 15th).

The upcoming Irish release is really exciting for me. I have been all over with the film, from Toronto to India, and have experienced incredibly diverse reactions and readings of it so now I am looking forward to the home response; from people who have real references for the world of the film. Luckily with this release I am able to attend screenings in many cinemas around the country so I will be able to chat with the audiences afterwards and hear their thoughts. My experience so far has been incredibly positive: the film seems to prompt a lot of discussion among viewers and it tends to stay with them which I hope continues to be the case with the release in Ireland.

I am also excited to see the cast response to the film. Some have already seen it but many of the non-professional actors from the Midlands region haven’t yet and I can only imagine how surreal it will be for them at the gala preview on Thursday (March 15th) – hopefully they enjoy it!

The whole purpose of making the film is the audience, and as a filmmaker I can only make the work and then let it out into the world for people to make their mind up on it. That is what I think is so great about cinema as an art form, people are not afraid to have a view, and opinions are usually as individual as each person’s experience.

The Other Side Of Sleep will open with a gala screening plus special guests including Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Sam Keeley, plus a Q&A with director Rebecca Daly, at the IFI on Thursday, March 15th at 6.20pm. The film runs until March 29th.
Limited number of tickets still available to purchase for the Thursday gala - to book, please contact our Box Office on 01 - 679 3477, or book online

Monday, March 5, 2012

'A fear that can't be defined'

Director Rebecca Daly talks about the writing process behind The Other Side Of Sleep which opens at the IFI on March 15th.

The script started with a newspaper article about a young woman’s body that was found wrapped in a duvet in Northern Ireland. This image of the duvet around a body and a visual confusion between sleep and death stuck, and this is where sleepwalking entered the story. Glenn (Montgomery, co-writer) and I were fascinated by the implications for a character and story of a person who could be active or acted upon but not conscious (throwing up complications of responsibility) and would have no memory of what happened once awake again. With the film I was interested in exploring a fear that can’t be defined or seen; that exists in spaces: like an empty factory at night or a quiet woodland and in unreliable supporting characters whose behaviour is contradictory and sometimes suspicious or strange. It’s about an unknowable potential in these spaces and people.

Glenn and I plotted the story together and then wrote a treatment. The project was selected by the Cannes Cineresidence programme in 2008 so I went to Paris for four months and got stuck into writing. We didn’t often sit down together and write; more we talked about it and then I would write a draft or he would or we might take sections and then give feedback to each other.

The script continued to evolve in small ways right up to shooting as we confirmed locations. We went through many drafts; it was a constant filtration process. We had so many ideas that we wanted to explore in the beginning that we kept having to select from or cut down and this continued to be part of the process throughout the making of the film for me.

Rebecca Daly

Join us on March 15th for the gala preview screening of The Other Side Of Sleepfollowed by a Q&A with Rebecca Daly and Director of the Dublin Fringe Festival, Róise Goan. 

The Other Side of Sleep is showing at the IFI as part of a season devoted to Fastnet Films

Watch the film trailer here: 

The Other Side Of Sleep Official Trailer from The Other Side of Sleep on Vimeo.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Irish DVDs available from the IFI Film Shop

From MAN OF ARAN to GAA FOOTBALL Gold - the best of Irish DVDs available from the IFI Film Shop.

GAA Football Gold 

GAA Football Gold: The DVD is the first time that the All- Ireland Football highlights from the National Film Institute (now the IFI) has been available to own at home. The films capture a different era of gameplay and some of the greatest football players in GAA history such as Galway's Frankie Stockwell and Seán Purcell, Cork's Denis "Toots" Kelleher, Dublin's Kevin Heffernen, Kerry's Mick O'Connell and Seán Murphy; and Cavan's Peter Donohoe, P.J Duke and John Joe O'Reilly. The DVD includes wins for Kerry, Meath, Dublin, Mayo and Galway as well as a golden era for Cavan football with three wins and a rare All-Ireland victory for Louth. 

Man of Aran: Unavailable for many years, Robert Flaherty’s famous documentary about the lives of Aran islanders has come under attack for the director’s recreation of a way of life that had been outdated for fifty years when the film was shot. This aside, the film is still regarded as a classic for its stunning cinematography, scenery and editing.

Man of Aran

Mise Éire: Containing extraordinary archive footage, George Morrison’s pioneering 1959 documentary is a stirring chronicle of Ireland’s turbulent years between 1896 and 1918, particularly the momentous events of Easter 1916. Seán Ó Riada’s innovative music score (a combination of tradition Irish tunes, sean-nós and an orchestral arrangement) brought him national acclaim.

Kings: Based on Jimmy Murphy’s play ‘The Kings of the Kilburn High Road’, this Irish/English language film sees a group of Irish friends who, after emigrating to England 30 years previously, are reunited at the funeral of a friend. The film intercuts between the men’s lost youth in Ireland and the harsh realities of the present day. 

Reeling in the Decades: Three decades of by the hugely-popular RTÉ documentary series are collected in this box-set, running from 1970 to 1999, linking the year’s biggest news and events with the most iconic music hits of the time.

Reeling in the Decades

December Bride: 1909; A strong-willed servant girl keeps house for an elderly widower and his two sons. When the old man dies, the girl enters into a relationship with the two brothers, scandalising the conservative Ulster farming community around them. Based on the novel by Sam Hanna Bell.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Not content with adapting ‘Ulysses’ to the big screen, Joseph Strick returned to James Joyce in 1977, telling the story of Joyce-surrogate Stephen Dedalus’ search for knowledge against the background of his family’s declining circumstances in early 20th Century Ireland.


Ulysses: Joyce’s famously “unfilmable” novel was adapted twice, but most cineastes prefer this looser 1967 version by Joseph Strick. Over the course of June 16th, 1904, a young Stephen Dedalus wanders the streets of Dublin city, encountering Leopold Bloom, a middle-aged Jewish man preoccupied with the possible infidelities of his wife Molly.

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