The story of getting a film made ........again!

Christmas, Ireland and the IMF

It's a Wonderful Life.“It was the worst of times, it was the best of times”. So began one of Charles Dickens’s greatest novels – “A Tale of Two Cities”. Depending on your point of view, the arrival of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) into our country this week most likely provokes one of the two sentiments expressed in the title of the 1859 novel. Personally speaking, it engenders both seemingly contradictory judgements, but I spout enough about that on Twitter. Story wise, I began thinking about the whole concept of intervention and how it’s reflected in the saga’s we tell on screen. Like everything else, there are many forms of intervention, good, bad and indifferent, from marauding aliens invading our planet to spiritual beings taking a hand in our lives to avert disaster. In ancient Greek drama, when a play became too convoluted to tie up neatly at the end, a concept known as “Deus Ex Machina” was employed to speedily resolve everything. Essentially, a God or emissary of God would descend, make pronouncements as to who was right and wrong, good triumphed over evil and everyone went home happy. Today this weapon in the arsenal of storytelling is roundly dismissed and unless employed correctly from the beginning of a story, rightly so. But there’s something about that idea of a superior being arriving on the scene to fix everything that is universally comforting. The apparitions in Knock Co. Mayo a century ago, is a prime Irish example of that – a poverty stricken, hungry and ignorant people were perfect candidates for such an intervention, giving if not real sustenance, at least hope in the bleakest of landscapes.

Christmas is a time of the year when we all become children in many ways, but in one way in particular which is often overlooked. Every year we do the same things, listen to the same songs and Carols and to a large extent, watch the same movies. Two of which movies are prime examples of interventionist stories – “Scrooge” or “A Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” How many festive seasons have we spent fighting back a lump in our throats as George Bailey stands in his living room surrounded by family and friends as we all are brought to realise the truly important things in life have no monetary cost, yet are priceless, or when Ebenezer Scrooge pays an unexpected visit to Bob Cratchit’s poverty stricken humble abode on Christmas Day, laden down with presents for all. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is an epic tale of a man not realising how happy or how lucky he was. His guardian angel Clarence sets out to rectify this in a wonderfully absorbing story. “A Chrsitmas Carol” on the other hand tells the story of a man consumed by money at the expense of all human warmth. Again it is supernatural beings who set about putting Scrooge straight on a few things. And Dickens was one of the first novelists to point out in his work, that the well off and privileged in our society had a duty of care to those less fortunate.

Perhaps that other dimension does stand ready to help us in dark times but, like the IMF, they can only do so by invitation. What a pity it is that at a time when numbers have never been as low in our churches as they are today, when fear and hopelessness stalk thousands of family homes across this island, when apparent prosperity convinced us all that money and credit could solve all problems, when very intelligent minds were telling us that the awesomeness and spectacular grandeur of the universe could be explained without the concept of a God, that it is now that we could do with all the intervention we can get. Some wonder why the Irish people haven’t taken to the streets en masse. My theory is this. We are used to betrayal, is there anyone left who hasn’t betrayed us, the church, the state, the banks, the institutions, the politicians, it goes on. We should expect better for ourselves, we should demand better for our children. We should take control of our destiny as a nation. I would like to quote Charles Parnell here: “No man has the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation. No man has the right to say to his country: thus far shall thou go and no further”. So many have betrayed the march of this nation, it is up to us to decide whether that continues, or not.

People need hope and maybe that’s why the greatest interventionist story of them all, the story Hollywood called “The Greatest Story Ever Told”  the story of what Christmas is all about will offer renewed hope and vision to a betrayed people.

So I offer an early Happy Christmas to all.

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  1. Tom Condon says:

    Hi Paddy, finally got around to reading all your blog work. I’m very impressed with your web design, it is very professional looking!

    have you gotten around to seeing the new True Grit or Black Swan? both were great, talk to you soon,


    • Hi Thomas,

      Thanks for that, much appreciated.

      I have seen True Grit and I intend to write a post about it soon. I read the Charles Portis novel years ago and it’s very faithful to that, while accepting that the filmmakers compressed or eliminated where they found necessary dramatically.

      I have a great fondness for the original film, despite it’s many flaws. If any one thing divides them, it is authenticity. The Duke wore a corset and hairpiece, Bridges allows his belly to hang out in the scene in the back of the Chinaman’s shop. Looking forward to seeing Black Swan.


  2. Great still in your blog
    Saw “it’s a wonderful life” again over the christmas period
    What great storytelling and for a film that on the surface seems very soft and light it packs a dark punch and explored fundamental issues about self worth.
    Pity about the whole angel and God as a heavenly voice thing but I think that for it’s time was considered a way to offset the darker suicide aspects of the film and provide comic relief.

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