Last night I watched part two of John Michael McDonagh’s as yet unfinished trilogy of films dwelling on his Irish ancestry, the third part will be set in London, with high hopes of cracking my shites laughing. Well, laugh I did but my shites are still intact so to speak although there were hairline fractures showing. Having enjoyed his previous offering, The Guard, my hopes were high but not that high that I couldn’t hurdle them with a wee small run up and throw the ol’ leg over, but, as things panned out I would have needed a spring board to clear the bar.
I’d like to know who penned the words, ‘Nothing short of a masterpiece. A very nearly flawless film,’ that appears on the above poster. Have they ever seen a masterpiece? Are they aware of Stanley Kubrick? Orson Welles? Woody Allen? I think not. Although Calvary is a good film, a funny film and most importantly a Hiberno-centric film I still can’t bring myself to use the ‘M’ word in relation to it. In short, I found it a bit on the nose with nothing hiding below its celluloid veneer. nothing at all. Well, let me just take that back. The many beautiful panoramas of the verdant and imposing Ben Bulben set against a backdrop of grey wintry skies did set my mind stumbling back to my Irish childhood sat in geography class at the local Presentation Brothers College (a radical off shoot of the infamous Christian Brothers) where Brothers dressed just like Brendan Gleeson stalked the hallways and classrooms for their pound of unrepentant adolescent flesh. I liked geography and was always wondering what sort of a mountain was Ben Bulben? So angular and exotic, unlike most other mountains in Ireland bar Mount Errigal in Donegal which has a charming pyramid like peak surrounded by the scree and cast offs of thousands of years of weather erosion. Can you tell I liked my geography? That was one class where I plied my book diligently under the dry humour of Mr Flynn’s tutelage. Ben Bulben is a block mountain, or so I was lead to believe at the time. Nothing mysterious about that at all but the mystery I speak off is what was it doing fighting for top billing in Calvary?
The other issue I have with calvary is the way it extracted the michael out of the Catholic Church. I’m all for such humorous diversion but it all seamed like a rather badly written episode of Father Ted. The digs and jibes at The Church were never ending, in fact I think they went on far longer than the ‘eternal damnation’ my Parish Priest would yabber on about as payment for carnal sins. I did like it, I enjoyed it and I also enjoyed the ribbing that ‘The Rich C*&ts’ received for crippling Ireland and wiping their arses with its outdated financial legislation. The kidney punches at the ‘Holy Institution’ of marriage were good too but then it went back to the wholesale slaughter of the Holy See, again, and again and again just for good measure.
It would take a cave dwelling idiot to suggest that the clergy and their employers are beyond reproach, are still resident safely in The Pale, are purveyors of guilt edge moral fibre and what ever else you might want to get your gob around but hang on a minute. It seems that whatever come back could have been written into the script, just to increase the gambit and gag potential, was buried in that awful pit of children’s bones out in Tuam. Now that wasn’t fair was it? It’s off to the workhouse for me because of my seditious writings and immoral thoughts. Or should that say ‘amoral’? I’m not sure and can’t recall if we were ever taught the difference in Religious Education. No wait, amoral was reading Ulysses and immoral was smuggling a few copies of the band manuscript into the country from England.
What I’m saying is that the bad guy in this film was so fucking huge and an awful screen hogger at that, that there was no room for anything else. Apart from the only other thing bigger than a Bishop’s bishopric which as we all know is Ben Bulben. Ah, Ben loves the limelight sure he does. It’s a well known fact that for the good guy to be really good, like a fucking angel or something, the bad guy has to be a shameless bollix of the highest order and Calvary kinda got it all wrong.
In my humble confused and addled Irish opinion I reckon Mr McDonagh could have increased the subtlety factor a tad, like a country mile tad, and eased off the easy targets. Sure I’m not sure that the Pope was mentioned at all at all all. The film started to expose it self to me like a play. All two person dialogue scenes and then move along there now, nuttin’ to see here boss. I can only surmise that Mr Mcdonagh was in a bit of a hurry to go and see Garth Brooks at Croke Park and didn’t have the decency to send the script to his brother, the other Mr McDonagh of ‘In Bruges’ fame, for a quick read through and perhaps a cup of Lyons tea and a few mikado biscuits.
But then what would I know? I have no plays written or performed, no film scripts optioned and haven’t even had a book published yet. What I do know is that Littlefinger’s Irish accent was a bit heavy on the ham and white sauce and I’ve never seen such a bleeding awful church in all my past life spent in Ireland that wasn’t owned and built by the Jehovahs. And what was with the ending? Just desserts or what? Like I said earlier, it was all a bit on the nose, the Pope’s nose at that. There I said it!