The Michael Collins film I’m dying to see is from 1936 and it’s called Beloved Enemy.
In this film, the Collins character awakens from his coma after being wounded in battle and tells his beloved, Kitty Kiernan-esque, that their side has won, there will be peace now – and they can find happiness. Imagine if 20th-century Irish history were anywhere near as straightforward.
in a postloved enemy In reality there would be no partition, no civil war and perhaps – all at once – no Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in league with the Catholic Church and dominating Irish life for eight decades.
Just defeat the British, gain independence and live happily ever after. Well, keep dreaming.
We learn early in life that history is rarely like movies. It’s also important to note the key points made by one of Ireland’s foremost film historians, Kevin Rockett, when he alludes to this film in a play for the essential Atlas of the Irish Revolutionproduced by University College Cork.
Professor Rockett points to the “political fire insurance” taken out by the American creators loved enemy to tone down this blatant rewriting of history.
An on-screen explanation before the film begins states that the story is not from history – “it’s a fact-inspired legend” – reminding us that Hollywood has never been about teaching history, it’s about delivering entertaining stories, who sell themselves.
However, Michael Collins is truly “a legend inspired by fact”. His story has dominated the popular historical accounts of the 1916-1922 era, and his controversial memory lives on as both warring factions of the Civil War claim his memory.
I was aware of much of this from a young age, hearing neighbors laugh when my Fianna Fáil-crazy father liked to quip, “But our audience always went to Béal na Bláth. It’s just that we don’t go there on the same day as the blue shirts.”
I wonder what the late Denis Downing would have made of the two-handed speeches by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil at the scene of Collins’ death ambush.
Filmmaker Neil Jordan deserves credit for producing a great film with few factual historical liberties
For many Irish people, much of their historical knowledge and impressions of this hot period are based on the wonderful 1996 epic film MichaelCollins with Liam Neeson and Julia Roberts.
Even from this distance, filmmaker Neil Jordan deserves credit for producing a great film with few factual historical liberties.
Jordan was punished for involving British machine guns mounted on Bloody Sunday in Croke Park – and not hand-held weapons such as were actually used by the “Auxies”.
He also produced a love story in which Julia Roberts’ Kitty Kiernan – and Collins and Harry Boland’s struggle for her affections – overshadows the tedious stuff of the Anglo-Irish treaty negotiations that framed life in Ireland for only the ensuing century
But let’s give Jordan some credit here for getting his long-planned project over the line with $25 million in cash from Hollywood financiers.
He’s also entitled to a break for perhaps overly vulgarizing the schism between Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera.
Admittedly, the late Alan Rickman’s rather affective portrayal of Dev was a stark contrast to the strength of Liam Neeson’s portrayal of Collins.
But the thrust of this story is confirmed by many historians who claim that this was a chaotic period in Dev’s life that included many achievements in the preceding and following decades.
We also have to contend that if you just think in terms of iconic branding, death is often “a good career move” in the movies and showbiz in general. And Collins’ tragic murder at the age of just 31 fits that cliché and puts Dev at a serious disadvantage on Iconic missions.
This brings us to another important point about the popularity of Jordan’s film. It reminds us how important films, literature and the visual arts are in terms of how we learn about and remember things that have shaped the life of this nation.
It reminds us that artistic forms are distinct from historical facts and the “legend” is often a powerful inspiration
Of these artistic disciplines, film and television occupy a very central place.
I was working in Killarney in 1985 when the epic 1936 War of Independence was taking place The dawn was re-screened at the local cinema, then run by the family of filmmaker Tom Cooper.
Mr Cooper wrote, filmed and directed this first Irish ‘talking film’ which was a huge hit in Ireland and the USA. The outpouring of local pride in South Kerry at the time of the re-screening was impressive.
So has the chill caused in West Cork and across the country by the production and screening of Ken Loach’s film The wind that shakes the barley 2006 is also worth remembering.
All of this reminds us that artistic forms differ from historical fact and the ‘legend’ is often a powerful inspiration, while the work itself then regularly feeds into that legend.
And all of this tells us that it is important to study these artistic works, which are based to varying degrees on these fact-inspired legends – including the legend of Michael Collins.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/life-is-rarely-like-movies-but-they-play-a-leading-part-in-how-we-learn-about-this-nation-41927313.html Life is rarely like movies, but they play a leading role in how we learn about this nation