History too pristine
WILD GOOSE LODGE ★★ Directed by Paul Macardle and William P Martin. Starring Dave Duffy, Tom Muckian, Finbarr Furey, Deirdre Rice, Naseen Morgan. 12A cert, gen release, 135 min
Ah here. It would be unkind not to applaud the efforts of all concerned in bringing this tale of a famous historical atrocity to domestic screens. Working on a minuscule budget with the assistance of spirited amateur actors, William Martin and Paul McArdle have reconstructed the tale of an 1816 arson attack on Wild Goose Lodge in Co Louth.
The film has “labour of love” watermarked on every one of its many, many frames. The research is on the screen and in the mouths of the actors. Sadly, Wild Goose Lodge is a real chore to sit through. There is, perhaps, a Machiavellian strategy afoot. The thing is so interminably overlong – 135 minutes, lavatory fans – that a kind of Stockholm Syndrome eventually sets in. One ends up a little in love with one’s relentless captor.
If you are not familiar with the background, then fear not. The characters make sure to explain it to you (and each other) at every opportunity. This is the time of the violent radicals known as the Ribbonmen.
We begin with a local farmer being harried for informing on villagers who have broken into his home. The local priest (a strong Dave Duffy of Fair City fame) works hard to maintain order, but a malign schoolteacher (Tom Muckian with eyebrows aloft) is intent on wreaking fiery revenge on the supposed collaborators. No wonder the clergyman keeps knocking back whiskey like Lloyd Bridges in Airplane!
Much of Wild Goose Lodge is in the genre of Folk Park Cinema. Characters deliver stiff period dialogue in box-fresh costumes while standing by cottages that are slightly too well whitewashed or within barracks that are a little too carefully dusted. One half expects the camera to pan left and discover a coach-load of tourists snapping photographs for the folks back in Ohio. The decent locals eat stew and chase geese round trees. The Brits and evil Irish convey their malevolence by refusing to look at one another and spouting their lines to empty space in a downstage quadrant.
Enough unkindness. Wild Goose Lodge may not be much of a film, but it’s a commendable exercise in community co-operation. The story is worth remembering. Finbar Furey’s original music is genuinely lovely. And I greatly appreciated the performances by Stumpie and Grumpie, two charismatic pigs who receive deserved mention in the credits.