Tuesday, October 14, 2008

John Crowley's Intermission (2003)

Crowley's first feature, boasting an impressive Hollywood calibre cast, presents a contemporary image of urban reality in Ireland, an image that is not defined by classic pre-Celtic Tiger elements of the rural ideal of days past. Produced during the 2nd wave of economic boom that started in the 1990's, Intermission shows us a modern, urban Dublin, inhabited by characters not constrained by tradition, religion or economic hardship. Rather, the characters face challenges defined by Ireland's inclusion in and influence of not only the European Union (part of which it has been for a while now) but also the larger economic and social sphere that the Celtic Tiger boom brought with it. As McLoone notes 'Having abandoned the imagined community of nationalism for an ideology of national progress, there is a sense of displacement about contemporary Irish life that increasing affluence only exacerbates … Ireland now inhabits a cultural space somewhere between its nationalist past, its European future and its American imagination'[1]. And indeed, the film lacks a certain Irishness that one would expect to find in pre-Celtic Tiger films. Of course, the characters sip on Guinness and speak with thick Dublin accents, but their problems are of an international nature. Adultery, trouble with the boss at work, trouble with the law, unwanted facial hair - these are all issues that would otherwise not have been present in Irish-er works, which instead might have opted to explore the more 'common motifs of Irish film like religion, rurality, inter-generational conflict and politics', issues that are almost non-existent in Intermission[2]. The film is not completely devoid of elements from the past however. As Ryan notes, Intermission is a ' realist Irish film that pays little attention to idyllic fantasies of the past, and where it does, [Crowley] uses them to portray their complete incompatibility with postmodern life. In that sense [Crowley] portrays a postmodern form of nostalgia tempered with irony in the character Jerry Lynch. Lynch’s nostalgia for a past of Celtic mysticism is redolent more of nationalist endeavours and a vigilante form of justice'[3]. Essentially, the film asserts (in an admittedly entertaining way) the Irish urban reality of today, a reality not defined by the elements of the past (church, family, Celtic tradition) but one that is rather concerned with more modern challenges - relationships, employment, money, sex and crime. The fact that most of the characters are living a reality that did not benefit from the Celtic Tiger boom (many are either unemployed, on minimum wage or criminals) invites the post-modern approach that the film has taken, according to Ryan's Baudrillardian reading of Crowley's work. Crowley's film 'gives voice to the local narratives that are of greater meaning to a group of individuals living the flipside of the Celtic Tiger dream in a way only a postmodernist approach can facilitate'[4]. In conclusion Intermission, while being highly entertaining and one might say of Hollywood calibre, is also very much a work relevant to the time during which it was made. Despite being overly colourful and drawing on many elements already explored in other films of the 'euro crime-romp' genre (Trainspotting, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), the film manages to present to us a reality of Ireland not often represented in Irish film output of the time. As such, it is not surprising that it was awarded IFTA's best Irish film award in 2003, along with best director (Crowley) and best script (Mark O'Rowe). Regardless of what actual merit winning an IFTA award has, it is indicative of at least some form of achievement within the small Irish film community and as such, Intermission as well as Crowley, have received some much deserved recognition.

[1] McLoone, 2000, p7

[2] Murphy, 2006

[3] Ryan, 2008

[4] Ryan, 2008

McLoone, M. (2000). Irish Film: The Emergence of a Contemporary Cinema. London: BFI

Murphy, P. (2006). Interrogating Intermission. Kritikos: journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image Volume 3, January 2006.
Retrieved October 13, 2008 from:

Ryan, M. (2008). Answering the Question: “What is Intermission?” – An Exploration of Intermission as a Postmodern Film. International Journal of Baudrillard Studies Volume 5, Number 1, January 2008.
Retrieved October 13, 2008 from:

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