On the lightly snowy evening of January 6, 1904 in Dublin, elderly spinster sisters Kate and Julia and their niece, Mary Jane - all music teachers or performers, past or present - are hosting their annual Epiphany party and dinner, and, with the exception of Mary Jane's new crop of students and the young gentlemen tasked with keeping them company, most of the guests have attended in previous years. Kate and Julia's nephew Gabriel and his wife Gretta hold integral roles for the evening, Gabriel, who, in addition to being Freddy Malins caregiver if he gets too drunk as is often the case, is to carve the dinner goose and provide the evening's main toast, while Gretta is to present the pudding. With the added unexpected excitement provided by Irish nationalist Molly Ivors for Gabriel, the party basically goes according to script. As most of the guests have departed and just before Gabriel and Gretta are to do the same - this year they staying in a downtown hotel instead of making the long...Written by
The character Mr. Grace does not appear in Joyce's original story. He is an invention of John and Tony Huston's, and was chiefly included so as to permit a reading of the eighth-century Irish poem Donal Og ("Young Donal"). Although it represents a departure from Joyce's text, the poem is nonetheless appropriate to the story's themes: like the song "The Lass of Aughrim" that follows it, "Donal Og" deals with the suffering that love can bring to young women...just as it has for Gretta. See more »
So many literary adaptations are disappointments. There are many reasons for that, but usually it is the need to cut down a complex novel to the size of a screenplay. The Dead is unusual - it had to be 'padded', as the short story itself is a tiny, relatively short gem. It may in fact be the finest short story in the English language. In beautifully spare language it tells of the realization of Gabriel Conroy that his life, and the lives of so many around him are controlled by memories of the dead. Even his own wife of many years loved a man now dead more than him.
To bring such a short story to the cinema was always going to be tricky. John Huston did a magnificent job. He never gave in to temptation to play it up or use fancy technique to expand on the story. It is simple and true, with outstanding acting. The only slight miss-step is the use of music to accompany the devastating final soliloquy.
Its rare indeed for a movie version of a literary masterpiece to be itself a masterpiece, but I think its fair to use this term for this movie. Its not a bravura piece of film making, but it is simple and pure - I always think of Ozu's movies when i think of The Dead, its at that level of purity and simplicity and deep wisdom.
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