I don’t read much non-fiction and I’m not a film buff by any stretch of the imagination, so it’s a little surprising that The IRA on Film and Television by Mark Connelly caught my eye, but a couple of books I’ve read recently, A Leprechaun’s Lament and Frame Up, mentioned the IRA so it was already in my mind when this book came along. It was an interesting book.
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) has for decades pursued the goal of unifying its homeland into a single sovereign nation, ending British rule in Northern Ireland. The IRA has appeared in mainstream motion pictures such as The Quiet Man, action films like Blown Away, political dramas, and dark comedies. IRA characters have been portrayed by stars, such as Anthony Hopkins, Richard Gere, and Brad Pitt. Whether portrayed as a heroic patriot, ruthless terrorist, or troubled anti-hero, the Irish rebel has emerged as a universally recognized cinematic archetype. This history dicusses film depictions of the IRA from the 1916 Easter Rising to the peace process of the 1990s, including topics such as America’s role in creating both the IRA and its cinematic image, the changing depiction of women in IRA films, and the reception of IRA films in Ireland, Britain, and the United States.
The IRA on Film and Television is probably not going to appeal to a broad audience, but I personally found it rather fascinating. I do have to say that I was more interested in the history of the IRA and Ireland than how the movies or TV portray it. It’s funny though, what little bit I knew about the subject beforehand I probably gleaned from movies or novels, not necessarily factual history books. I can see why the Irish rebels have been depicted in so many different ways, through so many different lenses. It’s a complicated history, a difficult struggle by real people who are not villains or heroes but a bit of both.
I think I’ve only seen two or three of the movies mentioned in the book, but I have added a couple to my list to see, especially Michael Collins, starring Liam Neeson, about the great man himself whose life was just calling to be made into movies. Although not strictly about the IRA, a couple of the Irish gangster films, The General and Ronin, both from 1998 sounded like ones my husband and I might like. And somehow I missed The Devil’s Own, 1997, starring Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt.
While not everyone’s cup of tea, I felt The IRA on Film and Television covered its topic well, was clear, focused and gave me the necessary historical background in addition to the conversation regarding the films, how they changed historical fact, how they enhanced the legends, how the public felt when they were released. And it was an realitively easy read, enjoyable, not simply a recitation of fact. Connelly must truly care about his subject and that comes across. It is about the IRA and its presentation in the movies and on tv, not a detailed history of the IRA or Ireland in general, though, and I think the actual history might be a subject I’d like to explore further.
The website is a great resource, too, with lists of movies depicted various stages in the history of the IRA and links to other useful sites.
3 out of 5 stars
Category: Non-Fiction – Movies
Published April 25, 2012 by McFarland
Book source: For review