Between Irish National Cinema and Hollywood: Neil Jordan's Michael Collins

By Merivirta-Chakrabarti, Raita | Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies, Annual 2007 | Go to article overview

Between Irish National Cinema and Hollywood: Neil Jordan's Michael Collins


Merivirta-Chakrabarti, Raita, Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies


Abstract. When Neil Jordan's film Michael Collins was released in 1996, it was seen by some as a Hollywood epic, by others as a great national film. I would argue that Michael Collins combines these two traditions and occupies a space between Irish national cinema and Hollywood. The subject matter, the creative talent and the locations were Irish and the film was produced by using the Irish filmmaking infrastructure and the Irish government's support mechanisms, but it was largely financed and distributed by a Hollywood studio. Also, to make it more appealing especially globally, but probably also locally (since Hollywood is now the international standard), it makes use of Hollywood conventions, making it accessible to international audiences as well. Despite the Hollywood mode, the fact remains that Michael Collins is a national film text, and Jordan does not make too many concessions to the non-Irish audiences.

Key Words. Ireland, national cinema, Hollywood, Michael Collins, Neil Jordan.

Resumen. Cuando la pelicula Michael Collins de Neil Jordan se estreno en 1996, unos la consideraron una epopeya Hollywoodiense, otros una gran pelicula nacional. Yo sostengo que Michael Collins combina estas dos tradiciones y ocupa un espacio entre el cine nacional irlandes y Hollywood. La tematica, el talento creativo y los exteriores son irlandeses y la pelicula se realizo usando la infraestructura cinematografica irlandesa y los mecanismos de apoyo del gobierno irlandes, pero fue mayoritariamente financiada y distribuida por un estudio de Hollywood. Por otra parte, para hacerla mas atractiva sobre todo a escala mundial, pero probablemente tambien local (ya que Hollywood es ahora el estandar internacional), emplea convenciones de Hollywood que la hacen accesible al publico internacional. A pesar del estilo Hollywoodiense, lo cierto es que Michael Collins es un texto filmico nacional, y que Jordan no hace demasiadas concesiones al publico no irlandes.

Palabras clave. Irlanda, cinematografia nacional, Hollywood, Michael Collins, Neil Jordan.

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Neil Jordan's Michael Collins, called "the most important film made in or about Ireland in the first century of cinema" (Dwyer 1996: 1), was released ten years ago, in November 1996, with much anticipation. With its 84 locations and $28 million budget, Michael Collins became the largest production ever sustained by the industry in Ireland, and the biggest film ever made by an Irishman in Ireland. The film broke all box-office records in the country and in 2000 was second only to Titanic (1997) in the all-time box-office list in Ireland, having earned IR4.0m [pounds sterling] ($5.6m). Michael Collins was a hot topic already before its premiere, and fuelled discussions and debates in academic circles as well as in the media and among a wider audience. One of the issues the film raised was the question of the Irishness of the 1990s' more internationally-oriented Irish cinema. What was Irish about Irish cinema? The case of Michael Collins was particularly baffling--whereas some saw it as a very Irish film, representative of Irish national cinema, others saw it as a Hollywood production (Dean 1997: 16; Cullingford 1997: 17). Michael Collins has features which might cause it to be attributed to either the category of Irish film or Hollywood movie. However, I would argue that Michael Collins eludes this binary categorisation and that it occupies instead a position between Irish national cinema and Hollywood. In this paper, I hope to make my point by discussing Michael Collins's position at the intersection of national cinema and Hollywood, where the national and international, the local and the global, converge and merge.

Neil Jordan, the writer and director of Michael Collins, had become known for both his 'Irish' and 'Hollywood' films. In the first category one could include Angel (1982) and The Crying Game (1992), while the second category comprises such films as We're No Angels (1989) and Interview with the Vampire (1994). …

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