Magazine article The Christian Century

The Eclipse

Magazine article The Christian Century

The Eclipse

Article excerpt

The Eclipse

Directed by Conor McPherson Starring Ciaran Hinds, Iben Hjejle, Aidan Quinn and Jim Norton

The modest Irish picture The Eclipse has slipped below almost everyone's radar; it's moving quietly across the country in brief art-house engagements. This contemporary ghost story about loneliness and connection is worthy of attention.

The setting is a small seaside town in Ireland, where an annual literary festival draws some celebrities. Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle) is a London-based novelist, Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn) an Irish American who had a one-night stand with her and would like to parlay it into a full-blown affair. The other thing these two literary lights have in common is Michael Farr (Ciaran Hinds), a highschool woodworking teacher who moonlights during the festival as a chauffeur-and the movie turns out to be his story. Michael hasn't recovered from his wife's death, and he's trying to raise two kids by himself. Lena's breakthrough novel, The Eclipse, is a ghost tale rendered as realism; Michael relates to it because lately he's begun to see spirits.

The film is adapted from Billy Roche's story by the gifted playwright Conor McPherson, who also directs. It's his third movie, yet the direction is awkward in places. The pacing is inconsistent, the film stalls now and then--though there's nothing you would want to cut--and the visuals are a little fussy, too carefully arranged, as if he got carried away with the novelty of the camera. Still, The Eclipse translates McPherson's distinctive sensibility to the screen.

The first of his plays to reach these shores, The Weir, is set in a sleepy pub where five characters exchange stories of their brushes with the supernatural. The audience doesn't see any ghosts, yet the play casts an unmistakable spell, like tales told around a bonfire in the wee hours. A live ghost provides the punch line in Shining City, and The Seafarer is about a man playing poker with the devil for his soul. Sure, McPherson uses these mysterious events as metaphors, but not merely as metaphors--it's clear that he believes in the interaction of the living and the dead. Though he has a poet's ear, like Lena he presents his spectral narratives in a realist style. …

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