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Conor McPherson's The Eclipse eclipses IFTAs

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I was thrilled to learn that Conor McPherson's new film The Eclipse swept the Irish Film and Television Awards on Saturday, snagging awards for Best Film, Best Film Script, and Best Supporting Actor for Aiden Quinn.


I saw the film Monday night at a press screening and was excited, I'll admit largely because The Eclipse stars the unpronounceable Iben Hjejle, best known in America for her star turn opposite John Cusack in High Fidelity (easily one of my top five favorite movies). In The Eclipse, which is set at a literary festival in Cobh -- the gorgeous and eerie scenery holds a supporting role all on its own -- Hjejle plays a novelist caught between the competing desires of Nicholas (Aiden Quinn), an absolute asshole American writer/drunk (Quinn is fantastic in this, alternately hilarious, tragic and complexly, awfully intense, and the award is well-deserved) and Michael (Ciaran Hinds), a widower who serves as a volunteer at the festival and thus is a much ignored silent witness to the egomaniacal and neurotic writers' personalities.

The movie, which was shot in five weeks on a very small budget, is categorized, depending on what reviews you read, as a romance, a thriller, a ghost drama, or an "indie film". The air of downright frightening suspense that pervades the atmosphere of the movie comes to a head in only four moments of building horror-flick terror, as Michael experiences disturbing sightings of his father-in-law as a ghost before he's even deceased. While these moments are few and far between, I found myself scrunched down in my seat, hands over my eyes, biting my lip to keep from screaming out loud. But the film is also funny, wry, and deeply moving.

All three of the lead actors are extraordinarily compelling, and McPherson gives them plenty to work with. "When I am trying to tell a story, I need the beyond to frame the story," said McPherson in a Hollywood Reporter interview. "I need that sense of total mystery to imbue the story with a sense of wonder. When I was a kid, I suppose, I was always interested in ghosts, vampires, zombies, you name it. I've always found those things incredibly absorbing. I think we often feel we are making decisions, but a lot of the time that is probably an illusion in the sense that we are driven by forces which we're probably not even conscious of."

The Eclipse is in theatres starting March 26.

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