Grutch & Barlow’s Film Frenzy
Two MHS Students Agree, Disagree, Duke It Out
by Nathan Grutchfield and Robert Barlow
Featured at the Green Mountain Film Festival was a film called Older than Ireland. Directed by Alex Fegan, produced by Garry Walsh, and sponsored by the Three Penny Taproom and the Central Vermont Council on Aging, the movie follows the daily lives of centenarians living in Ireland (with the exception of one emigrant in Syracuse, New York), who talk about their hundred-plus-year-lives through common themes such as the physical and emotional pains of old age, and the reminiscence of love and marriage, with a large degree of introspection. Nathan Grutchfield and Robert Barlow sat down to examine what they thought of the film.
Nathan Grutchfield: The movie had a very simple premise, and the themes examined were typical and universal, which could lead a harsh critic to find the film indistinct or generic, however, the Irish element brings that theory down to an extent. Irish history is discussed, through haunting accounts by the centenarians about oppression in the days of the struggle for independence. In fact, this would make the subject of Older than Ireland quite appropriate given the one-hundredth anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, and the stories of remembrance even more remarkable.
However, Irish history equates for only a small part of the movie’s plot, which I found very disappointing.
Robert Barlow: You know, Nate, the film is titled, Older than Ireland. Despite the fact that it says “Ireland,” the title seems to suggest that the film is about something, you know, Older than Ireland- the centenarians who have been around longer than Ireland. I found the film’s focus, those centenarians, to be inline with the title.
Grutch: Alright, Rob, what about our current context makes us care about some centenarians in Ireland more than an event that was exactly 100 years ago and one that was a turning point for the next many years to come in how people in one country viewed each other, and viewed another country? I know it is an understatement to say that this had gone on for a while before 1916, but it is a big deal that the Easter Rebellion is marking its 100 year anniversary in 2016.
Barlow: I don’t know about you Nate, but I read the description of the film beforehand, which clearly states, “Older Than Ireland is a landmark documentary that tells the story of a 100 years of a life as seen through the eyes of 30 Irish centenarians.” Despite this fact, we went to see this movie, and not one about the Easter Rebellion. I was glad that we made this decision — I found Older than Ireland both informative and entertaining. Important events, such as the Easter Rebellion and the Black and Tan period, are discussed, interspersed with funny anecdotes and personal experiences.
Grutch: First of all, I think even though you actually do mention some events about the Easter Rebellion after you say we went to a movie “not about the Easter Rebellion”, I think your statement misrepresents the movie as having no obligation to connect to that event. I understand the movie told us it would be focusing around these centenarians, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t intertwine details relating to that massacre and the Civil War, of which, they did some: in one sequence connections by the centenarians were brought to light, how one person met Michael Collins, and another person witnessed 16 people shot down on Bloody Sunday. However, I personally feel that given these people are some of the only ones on the planet who were around in that time and place, combined with the fact that it has been exactly 100 years since the Easter Rising, means that to only make a fairly small mention of that is a missed opportunity, given the viewers like me who would have been interested in that.
Yet I, too, am glad we took the time on Friday night to go and see this movie. The personal experiences are vivid. Memories of meeting loved ones are humorous, beautiful, and facilitated through photos of youthful innocence. There is also a memorable sequence where one old man walks outside his house and observes the lush green Irish countryside. Little words are spoken, but the beauty there is evident.
Barlow: I think that we’ve found the root of this argument, Nate; I was satisfied with the balance of history to anecdote, where it seems you were not. It appears to me that the film was written with a low level of background knowledge required — for those like me, who don’t know much about the history of Ireland, the film is easily accessible. However, for those who have a greater knowledge of Ireland, like you Nate, the film may be lacking in higher level historical perspective.
Grutch: Okay, I can agree with that. For a moment, Robert, let’s consider something else. What do you make of the overall mood, positive or negative?
Barlow: There were certainly sad moments — In a stunning and depressing statement, one lady relates that she was “glad” her husband had died. Similarly, another woman says how if there is a hell, “we’re all doomed.” However, the positive aspects of the film seemed to me to balance out these moments —The aforementioned woman also jokes that the reason that she made one hundred is that “the man upstairs forgot about her”. This balance seems to mimic the mood of the centennials- despite the impending end, as a whole, they seem to be mostly positive. In general, I found the mood to be overwhelmingly content.
Grutch: When we left the movie, I remember you were critical of the movie’s overall mood, and as I recall, it had to do with the fact that some statements, such as the ones you mentioned, were very depressing. Apparently, your opinion has changed somewhat. However, I do agree with that summary you just presented.
Barlow: I think that the movie could be very depressing- These are individuals who are looking at the end of their lives dead in the eye. However, I believe that the positives outweigh the negatives.
Grutch: A great deal of laughter also came from the audience at many of the centenarians’ actions, appropriate given the obvious intent of the film of including humor to dilute other feelings which may have arisen out of the depressing topics. The movie begins with a surprisingly spry centenarian smoking a cigarette in the middle of her colorful, clean living room, a teddy bear nestled to her left. That same lady keeps saying the f-word, bringing much cackling at its irony and political incorrectness, with most laughter, including my own, still coming from a place of respect for the woman.
Barlow: It was completely unexpected — usually we view elderly individuals as calm and respectful- dropping the f-bomb multiple times shatters that mold, helping deepen our understanding of this woman and her compatriots.
Grutch: It was a technique of Older than Ireland to include both negative and positive aspects of old age, out of honesty to the subjects, and enjoyment or dismay at the film can either way be justified. I enjoyed the film because it incorporated some history, humor, and views of lush, sweeping Irish landscapes, but primarily I feel deceived that more discussion didn’t revolve around the country of Ireland itself. Still the movie Older than Ireland has many endearing qualities, which make it a worthwhile film to see for those interested.
Barlow: Older than Ireland is a beautiful film, in both narrative and cinematography, and is accessible to all. It’s entertaining, informative, and a well rounded piece of the world, captured through a camera. I would highly recommend it.