Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

"Fremd Bin Ich Eingezogen ..."-An Outsider's Vision of Ireland in Urszula Antoniak's Nothing Personal

Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

"Fremd Bin Ich Eingezogen ..."-An Outsider's Vision of Ireland in Urszula Antoniak's Nothing Personal

Article excerpt

In the 2010 issue of Estudios Irlandeses, Tony Tracy (2010: 206) has questioned the centrality of European co-productions--among them Urszula Antoniak's Nothing Personal--to a discussion of Irish national cinema. After all, these films generally present an outsider's perspective on Ireland, despite the often considerable Irish input in terms of setting, actors and finances. In the case of Nothing Personal, this input includes not only the contribution of Irish production companies but also Connemara as the film's main setting and the prominent Irish actor Stephen Rea. Nonetheless, films like Nothing Personal belong to a tradition in which Ireland and its inhabitants have been represented rather than representing themselves. All too often, these visions of Ireland have failed to challenge and instead perpetuated already existing myths. With reference to film adaptations of Irish literary works, Sean Ryder has already alerted to the danger of "alternate--and what might riskily be called 'native'--ways of understanding Ireland [being] entirely obscured" (1998: 120), as Hollywood-style productions invariably reduce Ireland to the role of modernity's other. Nothing Personal, however, proves to be a positive exception in the sense that it is conscious of its own background as a European co-production and reflects critically upon its work of representation. While the legacy of romanticism is obviously present in the film, Nothing Personal manages to undermine its claim to authenticity and to subvert conventional images of Irishness.

Antoniak's film starts out from a conventional premise of romantic comedies: Anne, a young Dutchwoman, leaves behind her unfulfilling life and travels to a foreign country, where she discovers alternative values and establishes a close relationship with Martin, one of the locals. As Rosa Gonzalez points out, several recent films have chosen Ireland as the destination of these "spiritually recuperative trips" (2010). In the case of Nothing Personal, the setting has been limited to Connemara--an unusual decision, as the director has argued in an interview, because the studios are located in County Wicklow and the conditions for filming in Connemara were far from ideal (Antoniak 2009). These disadvantages are however easily compensated for by the symbolical weight of the setting. Under the influence of English romanticism the region has persistently been associated with rurality and a frugal yet spiritually wealthy lifestyle, which could serve as an antidote to the evils of modernity (Duffy 1997: 67-69). The myth of the west has been revived as late as 1990 by Jim Sheridan's The Field, and Nothing Personal does not hesitate to avail itself of these associations. From the beginning the film therefore establishes a direct opposition between Continental Europe and Ireland: while the former is presented as being urban, modern, materialist and marked by a feeling of alienation, the latter is characterised by rurality, a pre-industrial lifestyle, spiritual values and a sense of being in harmony with one's self and the immediate surroundings. As the plot thus develops from a conflict between 'the modern' and 'the traditional', Nothing Personal might be said to be based on "a structuring matrix of capitalist ideology" (Ryder 1998: 122). Between urban Continental Europe and rural Ireland lies the transitional zone of the motorway, which still offers some hints as to the time of the plot: the windmills at least seem to suggest that the film is set in the present. As soon as the character fully enters the second space, however, the markers of contemporaneity become fewer, while activities such as the cutting of turf give the impression that the action takes place in the past. Not even the radio, the only type of media featuring in the film, provides references to social, political or economic events which might help locate the action at a specific point in time but reports exclusively on sports and music. …

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