Ireland, 1209. An island on the edge of the world. A small group of monks begin a reluctant pilgrimage across an island torn between centuries of tribal warfare and the growing power of Norman invaders. Escorting their monastery's holiest relic to Rome, the monks' progress is seen through the eyes of a pious young novice and a mute lay-brother with a violent past. As the true material, political and religious significance of the bejeweled relic becomes dangerously apparent, their path to the east coast becomes increasingly fraught with danger. The monks belatedly realize that in this wild land of ancient superstitions, the faith that binds them together may ultimately lead to their destruction.Written by
In the early 13th century a group of monks are tasked to transport an ancient holy relic from their remote monastery in Ireland to Rome. They have organised assistance along the way in the form of some French soldiers but events do not pan out in a straightforward way.
This Irish adventure-drama is one which manages to capture its period feel while retaining a contemporary edge. The problem with these types of movies is often the characters spout dialogue which is overly dramatic and false feeling, like a bunch of modern actors pretending to be from medieval times. In this case, it didn't feel like this so much, with performances being universally convincing and understated enough to feel considerably more authentic than is usual. The choice of using different languages of the day assisted in this, with Gaelic, French and English (the latter of which being used as a substitute for Latin, which the film-makers decided could not be spoken naturally nowadays so an artistic compromise was to substitute that for English). The gloomy Irish landscape was very evocative and atmospheric and captured very well cinematically, and like other adventure-dramas like the Amazon films of Werner Herzog, the landscape is to all intents and purposes another character too, given its visual potency. There is an excellent low-key atmospheric score underpinning the imagery and events which serves the tension and drama very well also. The story itself is very minimalistic and straightforward with a quest narrative that actively allows for a variety of different events to unfold, which includes a couple of dynamic action scenes – a brutal and intense ambush in a forest and a finale on a beach. The story is clever enough to allow for a religious interpretation while offering up rationale explanations for all events too. In this way, it has a modern feel to it while playing off the mysteries inherent in the religious side of things. Overall, I found this to be a very compelling bit of work, with a great atmospheric setting and interesting characters. And because it is an Irish production, it does have a more authentically Celtic feel to it, which served the material well.
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