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He Believes in Beauty
Neil Jordan's Latest Movie Ondine is a Superb Addition to the Oeuvre of Ireland's Finest Film-Maker, Who Professes His Love For Ireland's Innate 'Craggy Madness'.
Tara Brady, 22 Mar 2010
In this spirit, Mr. Jordan’s latest film is Ondine, a playful demi-mythological romance which marks a sort of homecoming to the territory first mapped by Company of Wolves. The film centres on Syracuse (Colin Farrell), a fisherman who finds a woman (Alicja Bachleda) whom his daughter (Alison Barry) takes for a mermaid.
“There are very obvious attractions,” says Mr. Jordan. “I just started out with an image of a fisherman picking up a girl in his net and was immediately intrigued by the rules. I put those questions into the script: what kind of story is this? So it became a story about storytelling in a way.”
The film, a happy accident that came about when the Hollywood writers’ strike delayed Mr. Jordan’s adaptation of Joe Hill’s novel Heart Shaped Box, comes as a welcome respite from Ireland’s current crop of recession flicks.
“There’s been a lot of pressure on Irish writers and artists to capture gritty urban Ireland”, says the filmmaker. “It’s a valid pursuit even if gritty urban Ireland is no different from any other gritty urban European locale. They used to say there’s no such thing as an Irish novel. Because a novel demands a middle-class readership and that’s what has come about in the last 20 years. But we’ve lost something. If you look at George Fitzmaurice or Flann O’Brien or even Yeats, there's an insane streak of fantasy in Irish culture. The only modern equivalent is Pat McCabe, I suppose. I’ve often wondered where that strain of madness has gone to. I love that craggy madness.”
Is this appealing dementia gone for good, I wonder? Or can something be done to arrest its decline?
“Maybe, it is gone,” says Mr. Jordan. “The purpose of the European project was to modernise Ireland and that has been achieved. But one doesn’t want to get too sentimental about it. I grew up in the sixties and there was the sense that we had a barely functioning veneer of civilisation. The place was completely unstructured. I didn’t notice the Catholic Church or sexual repression as a young man in Dublin. I only remember the madness.”