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"Bull" McCabe's family has farmed a field for generations, sacrificing endlessly for the sake of the land. And when the widow who owns the field decides to sell the field in a public auction, McCabe knows that he must own it. But while no one in the village would dare bid against him, an American with deep pockets decides that he needs the field to build a highway. The Bull and his son decide to convince the American to give up bidding on the field, but things go horribly wrong. Written by
John B. Keane's critically acclaimed play The Field, is the one play that 90% of the population of Ireland will know. They will either know the plot or have studied it for state exams. My own grandmother is 80 years of age and she dislikes any kind of media and theater describing them as pure noise. But when she hears that The Field is playing she will instantly take an interest not because of it's fame but the themes that are produced in this play are very important to her and her generation and many generation that followed her up until the late 1980's when Ireland slowly began to change into a European union state, with it Irelands ethnic identity began to disappear. We may still have the accent but our lifestyles and attitudes are very different in some cases evidently for the better, but more often then not for the worst. In the early 90's two films documented the Ireland of old, these were The Commitments a joyous look at young Irish people using their musical talents to broaden their horizons and The Field an unforgiving bleak look at the life of a headstrong farmer whose life begins to falter when a stranger arrives in his village. Arrival of the stranger symbolizing change. A change that could disrupt the harmonious existence of life in the little village long after this stranger has gone.
Bull McCabe is a poor Irish farmer that works a rented field. This Field represents everything that has happened in the Bulls life. His families blood is soaked in the field. He rents it from a local Irish Widow who the Field belonged to her late husband. All the Bull wants now is to own this precious land. He has worked this field for many years. He brings seaweed from the coast line every day and plants it on the grass to enhance it's fertility giving it the freshest looking grass. To look at the Bulls special field we know that it takes years to attain that result and what's more any dereliction in maintaining the field will result in the field acquiring the same unfertile status as the surrounding land. When The Bull speaks about the field there is no pride but it is replaced by a nostalgic tone. His nostalgic tones also produce a chilling portrait of a man who is willing to stop at nothing to protect the field that is dear to him. When the actions of his son lead to the widow selling the Bulls precious field at public auction. The Bull comes face to face with losing his field to an American.
Jim Sheridan's direction is magnificent and his script (totally unlike the stage version) is also brilliant. Playing the Bull is legendary thespian Richard Harris whose fiery temperament and personal beliefs match that of The Bull. Harris's reputation of being difficult and uncompromising attitude nearly cost him role. A role that was originally going to the late great Ray McNally who unfortunately died before filming commenced. Today I cannot imagine The Bull being played by anyone other than Richard Harris. His portrayal of The Bull McCabe is that of being a brutally uncompromising farmer. A farmer despite his evident aggression had vision and respect for the earth he walked on. A farmer who would kill for you if it was needed or kill you if the tables were reversed. For me personally this is Harris's best role because with every word and action on screen I see that Harris is truly immersed in the role of the Bull.
Sheridan is in my opinion is Irelands Best Director. He uses the theme of the relationships between Irish father and son in all his films. In this film we learn about a stubborn man whose materialistic desires and expectations of his surviving son lead to horrible catastrophic results that affect the a community. The son in this film is Tadgh who is played Sean Bean. Unfortunately with all Sheridans films the supporting cast who are always very strong are overshadowed by one performance. In this film Bean is very under rated. His portrayal of Tadgh is that of a loner who is uncomfortable with the expectations of his father The Bull. These expectations lead him to develop an eagerness to please his father and lift of some of the burden that these expectations place on his own life. Also in the cast is excellent Tom Berenger who portrays an eager yank whose only hope is for his ancestors town land to prosper with his investment in the Bulls field. Berenger's yank character is very similar to that of Tadgh. He has returned not only to see his ancestors home place prosper but he too is doing it to please his families expectations back in America. Both men are determined to succeed in their respective duties. Berenger captures exactly what we Irish dislike about Irish American's coming to Ireland and that is their naive approach to a country they know very little about. A mistake that Berenger's character makes with his airs and graces.
As an Irish Film The Field is the best by a long shot. The script is good, the cast are excellent but most importantly it succeeds in drawing you into it but the strength of the story alone. It has not been bestowed the same commercial success as Sheridans other films for one reason. This reason is that the film contains a lot of Irish traits such as attitudes to strangers, the churches stance on suicide and many hidden references to Irish History. To me personally this is not a fault of the film, but a fault of peoples ignorance to ethnic film makers who want to tell stories from their ethnic back ground. All together a very fine film full of very fine performances. 10 out of 10
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