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First off let me just say, to those of you who are lactose intolerant, you have me deepest sympathies. Happy Easter to the rest on Spill. I hope you get to stuff yourself with chocolate.
For some of you Easter is a religious time. For others it's just an excuse to indulge that sweet, sweet tooth. Some believe that it's just a Hallmark holiday. Most people fit into these three categories. However, there is another minor category, found predominantly in Ireland, where Easter marks the beginning of a war. Today, in roughly an hour, a military parade will march past the General Post Office in the centre of Dublin marking the occasion. What's the occasion? The Easter Rising 1916. I won't give you a history of the day and its ramifications for Ireland and Britain, as that would take a blog or two on their own, and a site like this really isn't the place for history. Instead, I present to you Hollywood History.
The first film I'm going to tell you all about is Michael Collins (1996). The man himself was many things, and could be called many things (terrorist and freedom fighter among them), but for Irish people he's a national hero. He was charismatic, good looking, a war hero and launched one of the most successful military and intelligence campaigns against British forces in Ireland. Liam Neeson plays the 'Big Man' of Irish history in this Neil Jordan film. It's an extremely good story, a brilliant cast (including Julia Roberts and Alan Rickman) and some vicious action.
The film spans the years of 1916-1922, the year that *spoiler* Collins was killed in an ambush. As much as it is concerned with the political wheelings and deelings of the era, it's a film concerned with character and the humanity of the heroes and villians of the War of Independence. While the film has, and continues, to come under fire for its lapse in historical accuracy, it remains an extremely good Irish film, made about an important time, and man, in Irish history. The film ends in tragedy, as Irish films so often do.
The second film is a more recent picture; The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2006). This is a fictional story, yet it still manages to catch the essence of the War of Independence, and the deep divisions which it has left in Irish culture and politics. While the film doesn't deal directly with the Easter Rising (it takes place several years later) it does deal with what it inspired; The War of Independence and the Civil War. The story is centered in Cork, in the South West of Ireland, so some may have problems trying to discern the accents. If you can get past this you'll find a fantastic film, one which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival back in 2006.
The film is directed by Englishman Ken Loach, known for making highly charged political and social films, and stars Cillian Murphy. The acting in this film is fantastic, even more so when it's remembered that some of the roles were played by non-actors. The budget for The Wind That Shakes The Barley wasn't as high as Michael Collins so there aren't as many set piece battles, but the story, characters, and acting more than makes up for this. There's also a twisted torture scene which will have most people squirming in their seats. Heart wrenching is probably a phrase overused, but this film will make you choke up and complain about that thing in your eye.
In the burgeoning Irish film industry, there haven't been many films, less so when it comes to this emotionally charged piece of history. While people around the world eat chocolate and go about their day, in the back of people's minds in Ireland there is the common consciousness which remembers war, blood and independence.