- 05 Oct 18
A breathtaking cinematic essay on Ireland's natural beauty.
A poetic essay about the beauty of Ireland’s natural landscape and the simplicity of rural life, The Silver Branch is directed by Katrina Costello and focuses on the life and personal philosophy of farmer and poet Patrick McCormack.
McCormack, descendant of the generations of farmers who have lived off the wild landscape of the Burren in County Clare, was a member of the Burren Action Group, which successfully opposed the building of a huge interpretative centre at Mullaghmore. The building would have not only interrupted the stunning landscape, but attracted nearly half-a-million visitors per year, causing unprecedented damage. Costello’s film is thus a meditative cinematic poem about the power of the natural world, filled with breathtaking cinematography.
The imagery moves from incredible aerial shots showing the vast wildness of the Burren, to intimate close-ups of the area’s flora and fauna, some shot slightly out of focus to render them in exquisite, painterly form; the colours vivid and striking. Accompanying this visual beauty are the thoughtful, sometimes hypnotic poems and musings of McCormack, which emphasise the importance of nature and our need to embrace simplicity and beauty in modern life. As archive footage shows cranes and jackhammers suddenly appear in the Burren when construction of the centre starts, it does seem cruel and unnatural. Ireland has rarely been captured onscreen with such striking artistry. After an hour, however, McCormack’s boundless awe and mysticism feels sentimental and wilfully blind to larger issues.
As McCormack meets with his delightful elderly neighbour John Joe Conway, Conway’s innate kindness and dedication to his land and cows is evident. But McCormack needs to turn Conway into a metaphor. McCormack romantically opines that that generation lived free from the grasp of institutions – wilfully ignoring the picture of Jesus and crucifix hanging in the living room. It’s these moments of contrived sentimentality that break the feeling of authentic beauty and awe.
75 mins. In cinemas October 5