Ireland Blooms on Screen

Updated: Aug 9, 2021

Ireland serves as film location or setting for brief movie summaries in the upcoming book Around the World in 80 More Movies


Bloom, 2003, or Ulysses, 1967 with Stephen Rea or Milo O’Shea spending June 16 in Dublin. Officially calling his film Bloom, writer-director Sean Walsh tries making James Joyce cinematic, but his efforts won’t please fans of 24 or Marvel Studios. Walsh restructures the novel’s famed soliloquy as bookends rather than leave it entirely till the end. He adds and subtracts events—action seems to drastic a word to describe what happens in Joyce’s story. The mix of actual occurrences to a stream-of-consciousness style runs a spare 99-minutes so students hoping to base any book report assignments on the film may face bad grades. The movie works more as a supplement to reading the novel than cinematic experience, much like an earlier interpretation called Ulysses (and not starring Kirk Douglas). Decades before Bloom, Joseph Strick and Fred Haines earned a screenplay Oscar nomination for their 1967 version, updating the timeline to the ’60s and initially earning an X-rating, later revised to M for mature audiences. Dated by jarring music, their black-and-white film retains much about the novel, shifting gears from straightforward story-telling to surrealistic imaginings. Strick often uses effective camera movement and cross cutting but eventually relies on narration to capture Joyce’s words. This requires listening, an unpopular skill in a world where any slow moment gets diverted by web surfing on phones. Still, that last soliloquy remains powerful for those who pay attention, and Barbara Jeffers delivers it with appropriate fluctuating moods and contemplation. Both films highlight existing locations, most readily identifiable in various published guides about Bloomsday sites, and Dublin visitors benefit by gaining some familiarity with Joyce, a name frequently mentioned on various city tours. Michael Collins, 1996 with Liam Neeson fighting for Ireland’s freedom from Great Britain. Battle-scarred buildings still greet Dublin visitors, and movies like Michael Collins provide historical background on how the damage got there. Writer-director Neil Jordan details how Collins and others spearheaded the 1916 Easter Rising, one of the


country’s most significant events. The script and Neeson’s passionate performance demonstrate a case where the good intention of heroes seeking freedom gets thwarted by political maneuverings. Like most stories inspired by real events, the movie fiddles with fact and perspectives, but it shows many real locations and events. Director Jordan explores other Irish themes in such projects as High Spirits and The Crying Game. Once, 2007 with little known musicians Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová performing a song called “Falling Slowly” in Dublin. Effectively capturing the world of street musicians, writer-director John Carney hit gold in a story of talented artists seeking the big time in little venues. Wistful romance and memorable music proved flexible enough for a move from film to stage, where the Broadway version of Once won the 2012 Tony as Best Musical. Of course, the play featured the already-lauded “Falling Slowly,” winner of 2007’s best song Oscar. That fame means visitors passing through Grafton or South King Street will most likely hear some unrecognizable person’s version of the song more than once. The Princess Bride, 1987, with bad guys hauling Robin Wright up Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher. “We thought we were making the next Wizard of Oz,” director Rob Reiner told me as I drove him on a northern Nevada scout of potential locations for his version of Misery. I had just complimented him on The Princess Bride, a box office disappointment that my husband Fred and I adored for its imaginative take on fairy tale elements. Since that conversation with Reiner, The Princess Bride followed its own yellow brick road into cult status. Video (as in VHS) performed technological resuscitation (TR?)on the film and gave it a long, popular, and revered appeal. Well, TR plus the fact that the film was always wonderful, featuring clever conceits plus perfect looking cast members and locations. Those locations spread throughout Ireland and include Haddon Hall south of Bakewell, Derbyshire. Built from the 12th to17th centuries, the site makes its way into many productions such as Jane Eyre in both the 1996 and 2011 versions. Buttercup, a.k.a. The Princess Bride, also finds herself on Black Park Lake in Buckinghamshire and at Derbyshire’s Peak District. The Cliffs of Moher stand out in the movie and in real life as well, serving as a popular sight-seeing destination for those who like to admire the dramatic forces of geology and ocean. And incidentally, though many viewers think Misery filmed around its Colorado setting, my scout with Reiner worked well; he shot the movie in various northern Nevada locations like Genoa, Round Hill, and Carson City’s Clear Creek Road. Sing Street, 2016 with Irish kids energizing ’80s-style music in Dublin. Boy wants girl and knows few can resist the lead singer in a band. He starts one and brings her along in a sweet, fun, good-hearted tale that Golden Globe members nominated in their top musical/comedy category. Writer-director John Carney of Once returns with another music-influenced project, using original material that captures the ’80s spirit with such aptly titled tunes as “Drive It Like You Stole It.” Carney originally planned to make the film with Dublin’s musical legend Bono of U2. U2, Thin Lizzy, and the The Edge give Dublin part of its status as a music haven; so do movies like Alan Parker’s interpretation of Roddy Doyle’s novel, The Commitments. The movie features more than 40 Dublin locations including the Palace Night club on Camden Street Lower. Whether rock, pop, soul, or traditional music, Dublin pubs encourage singing of all kinds. Many companies offer music-oriented pub crawls, and while some establishments cater tourists, plenty attract locals who just want to lift their spirits with a song and a pint. For authenticity, try Whelan’s on Wexford Street, where Gerard Butler sings “Galway Girl” in PS I Love You.


customers to sing, plus occasionally features professionals, Van Morrison among them. With dark, classic ambiance, the club’s roots reputedly go back to 1198.


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