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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
Tenant farmers in Ireland and their problems accounts for some of the great political movements in that country. So it was interesting to learn that in The Field those problems have not gone away even though it's not British who are absentee landlords.
Shot mostly in County Galway in Ireland, The Field certainly has the look and feel of The Quiet Man, but it's hardly in the same lighthearted spirit. In fact the priest in this film functions more like Karl Malden's priest of the docks in On The Waterfront.
Richard Harris has been a tenant farmer working the land for widow Frances Tomelty for years and has raised his family there. It's pretty much accepted by the villagers that it's Harris's land by right of sweat so when the widow wants to sell no one bids against him except Harris's sidekick John Hurt. But American Tom Berenger doesn't know the rules around there and he does bid.
But what Berenger wants to do is develop the place, put some Americanized shopping mall there. Imagine a strip mall on some of that beach-front property that John Ford so lovingly photographed in The Quiet Man and you can understand the feelings there. It all leads to a lot of tragedy.
Originally Harris was supposed to play the priest role that Sean McGinley had and who played it well. The lead was to go to Ray McAnally who had done this role on stage. When McAnally died, Harris was moved up to the lead and responded with an Oscar nominated performance for Best Actor. Harris lost that year to Jeremy Irons in Reversal of Fortune.
Also look for some nice performances here by Sean Bean as Harris's son and Brenda Fricker as his wife. All part of a very violent household.
Religion specifically the Roman Catholic Church takes a beating and The Field does touch on the conservative role of the church in society. It's a generally accepted fact that the Church did its level best to discourage revolutionary activity during the 19th century after the Irish lost their parliament in the Wolfe Tone rebellion. Harris and others in the film comment about how no priests died during the potato famine that they don't know how the tenant farmers live. And Sean McGinley as the village priest is by no means portrayed as a bad man.
There's also bad feelings towards Berenger who is seen as the descendant of people who cut and ran during the Irish troubles. Of course if a lot hadn't emigrated to all points of the globe, there would be a lot more trying to share the land that Harris wants to hold on to.
The Field is a fine drama about Ireland and the problems there that may not have been totally resolved with independence.
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