Glasnevin Cemetery is the final resting place of 1.5 million souls; it is Ireland's national necropolis. ONE MILLION DUBLINERS reveals the often unspoken stories of ritual, loss, redemption, emotion, history - and the business of death. But this is really a film about life: the Saint Valentine's Day rush in the florists; the American visitors eagerly searching for Irish ancestors; lost and longed for love; discovery and bereavement; earthy gravediggers and musicians in celebration. Above all, it's the story of an immensely engaging Tour Guide shepherding his charges - and us - through the headstones and monuments, through opinions and beliefs. Filled with the familiar and the fascinating, this is a documentary that offers a glimpse into the unknown, into a world we will all come to share. Often humorous, always affecting, ONE MILLION DUBLINERS explores life, death and the afterlife, and ends in a way that will stay with you forever. Even in a cemetery you never quite get used to death.Written by
I hate to do this because I love Irish film, but I feel a certain amount criticism is necessary here.
I felt this documentary missed the main thrust of what it was trying to say. The editing is sporadic, and it speeds past one or two key threads of narrative that could have guided the entire story. Least of all is the climactic story (no spoilers) that seems to be placed in as an afterthought. And there are so many others (the mysterious French lady or the crematorium, or the fascinating opinions of the gravediggers, or the lady at the Angel plot who became a member of staff at the graveyard) that could have been expanded and become a major part of the documentary, removing some of the others in the process, in order to direct the narrative in a more meaningful way. Instead these are inserted with wild abandon and with no overall narrative thread, so the documentary feels a bit incoherent and the personal interpretations of the filmmaker are lost.
The documentary is enjoyable and does tell some interesting stories, but part of it really feels as if it became a tourism exercise, presumably with pressure from funders to put in unnecessary shots of political figures doing nothing in particular and taking part in ways that have no relevance to the documentary. It feels like an Agnés Varda documentary sullied by its Irish-ness and forced into the niche of "make a documentary that will increase the cemetery's reputation" instead of just "make a great documentary"; on the latter point it seems like it had incredible potential to do.
Foremost is the key climax, which would potentially allow for the entire documentary to be about one person, but this again fails in the making. The blame would go on the editing staff really, if it is to be directed anywhere, but it certainly reeks of funders applying pressure to make the documentary in a certain way.
John Michael McDonagh's recent criticism of Irish film springs to mind, where the director accuses Irish film of not allowing itself to become international in standard. The beautiful shots, the interesting setting and the obvious abilities of the director create a documentary that could have so easily ended up at Cannes, but instead will just end up forgotten by most that weren't involved in it.
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