- 21 Oct 16
It was an emotional occasion when the home-spun Irish epic was unvelied in Dublin’s Savoy Cinema last night.
There was a packed house for the premiere of Wild Goose Lodge in the Savoy Cinema, in O’Connell Street, Dublin last night. And the film was greeted by a sustained standing ovation, as the long list of credits rolled at the end. Understandably so.
It was a hugely emotional occasion for many of those who took part in the making of the movie. Wild Goose Lodge is an extraordinary testament to the determination of the small group of people who set out to tell the story of the terrible events that happened at the eponymous house on the night of 29-30 October 1816 and in its aftermath; and also to the local community of the Reaghstown area of Co. Louth, who contributed in so many ways to making it possible to complete what was a hugely ambitious project.
The film, directed and produced by local men William Martin and Paul McArdle, stars Dave Duffy (best known as Leo Dowling in Fair City) in the central role of the embattled, whiskey-guzzling priest Fr. McCann, as well as John Connors (Love/Hate), Michael Collins (Glenroe), musician Finbar Furey, former rugby international Shane Byrne and Joe Rooney (Father Ted) in cameo roles. It was filmed in Co. Louth and in Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, using local people as extras.
It tells the story of the arson attack on Wild Goose Lodge in Reaghstown, close to the town of Ardee, by the agrarian radicals known as the Ribbonmen, in which eight people died – and which resulted in the subsequent trial and execution of 18 local men. At a running time of 2hrs 15minutes, it is an epic that was made on a shoe-string budget.
The film underlines the rich depth of stories that remain untold, about Ireland during the centuries of British rule. Its treatment of what happened back then is fascinating in a lot of ways. There are elements here of the Irish obsession with land and title, dealt with in John B. Keane’s The Field; of local hostilities and begrudgery (did the word exist then?); of sexual intrigue; of tyrannical rule; of the Irish fondness for the bottle; and of anti-establishment demagoguery.
On a political level, no one emerges well from the film: certainly not the Machiavellian British ruling class; not the conniving Archbishop of Armagh; and hardly the radicals of The Ribbonmen, who carry out the deadly arson. Indeed, you might reasonably conclude that the film takes a post-Peace Process stance, acknowledging that there was wrong on all sides. But it is also worth noting that what was in danger of becoming an apologia for the clergy, with a priest in the central role, is nothing of the sort. In that sense too, it is a distinctly modern Irish view of events that tore Co. Louth asunder and wrought shocking bloodshed, 200 years ago.
There is an element about the film of the amateur dramatic society writ large. There is fine acting to be seen – notably from Dave Duffy as a priest wracked by self-doubt and newcomer Tom Muckian as the schoolteacher and leader of the Ribbonmen, Patrick Devane. Naseen Morgan smoulders impressively as Lizzie Lynch. But others in the cast are clearly finding their way and the film is slowed up considerably as a result.
A bit of judicious editing would not have gone astray: it is very long. And there are times when the melodrama in the storytelling is impossible to miss. But overall, you have to doff your cap in admiration at the gusto and conviction which was invested in getting the film across the line, by everyone involved. And the music by Finbar Furey and Peter Eades works well too.
For anyone with an interest in Irish film, Wild Goose Lodge is well worth seeing. In particular, as an example of what can be done in the arts, when people in a community of interest pull together with real determination and energy, it deserves attention. The story told in Wild Goose Lodge may be a brutal and chastening one – but the story of the making of the movie is heart-warming and in its own way beautiful.
William Martin, Paul McArdle and everyone around them who shared the dream of turning local history into a cinematic adventure – and made it happen – deserve to have their achievement in doing so applauded. They were entitled to feel proud last night. Now, it is up to the people to decide just how far the adventure will take them.