Thursday, March 29, 2007

McGahern on Film, online

It's all McGahern today, all day; surrounded by notes and trying to put some order on them, to do justice to the man, to get the words right, as he'd say. I've been trying to think about realism and parochialism, the difference between them, about the difference, too, between goodwill and genuine engagement. About the ways in which McGahern will be remembered, about the ways in which he is read, and how they square up to the way he wrote, his intense craft and rigor, the brilliance and clarity of his work which was in no way accidental or quaint.

I got an email this morning from Ronan Gallagher, the Mohill-based filmmaker and writer. I recognised Gallagher's name because he wrote the most beautiful and vivid letter to RTE Radio after McGahern's death last year. I can almost remember the words of it even a year on.

Gallagher has made a short film about the opening of the John McGahern library at the Lough Rynn Hotel in Leitrim last November(the photo of McGahern above, by John Keaney from Carrick-on-Shannon, hangs in the library). The film is called Amongst Friends and you can watch it by going to the Lough Rynn website here. Lough Rynn is a gorgeous place, very peaceful, and they've worked a really understated and lovely restoration and conversion of the old castle, which I used to visit when I was a child.
Have a look at the film. It does start out a bit like a promo for the hotel, and the presence of Bertie Ahern and his cronies becomes quickly cloying (he's barely able to pronounce McGahern's surname, and his comment about the "smashing houses" in the locality rings grimly for anyone who's seen how the blight of new houses is ruining that county, as commented on here). But it gives an interesting glimpse of how deeply-felt the connection to McGahern was in the county where he lived. Which is a more complicated relationship than all of the good will and genuine affection can suggest, I think; again, it feeds into the question of how McGahern will go down in local memory; for his artistry or in terms of his personality and the pride his name came, in later years, to inspire locally. The things are certainly not mutually exclusive. But if the former is brushed over or merely paid lipservice to, in favour of the latter, I think it runs the risk of being a less lasting memory. I'm not saying this of this short clip; it's something I've been thinking about more generally since McGahern's passing.

And the film is worth seeing for the moving moment when Madeline, John's widow, speaks about how, when first she saw the room, she could see John's "wry smile" and his pleasure at the idea and the remembrance.


I also meant to update yesterday with a full list of the films and dramas made about McGahern's work, or inspired by it, or scripts written by him. The IFI event is screening four, but there are others, and radio dramas and of course his stage play as well. A couple of years back, the mobile cinema in Drumshanbo had a festival of most of the works on film, more extensive than the IFI event even, gathering short films and student films from all around.

There's a list, a full one I think, after the jump.


By McGahern

Sinclair, radio adaptation of his own short story "Why We're Here", broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 16 November 1971; published in The Listener, 18 November 1971, 690-2.

The Barracks
, radio adaptation of his own novel, broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 24 January 1972.

The Power of Darkness, after Tolstoy, submitted to the Abbey and rejected in 1972, produced as a radio adaptation on BBC Radio 3 in the same year (15 October), produced at the Abbey in 1991, directed by Garry Hynes. Published by Faber.

The Sisters, television adaptation of the short story by Joyce. Broadcast as part of Full House on BBC 2, 17 February 1973.

Swallows, television adaptation of his own short story. Broadcast as part of the Second City Firsts series on BBC 2, 27 March 1975.

The Rockingham Shoot
, original television drama. Broadcast as part of the Screenplay: Next series on BBC 2, 10 September 1987.

The Pornographer
, film script adaptation of his own novel, remains unproduced and unpublished.

By Others


The Barracks
, stage adaptation, adapted by Hugh Leonard, first performed 6 October 1969 at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin. Directed by Tomas MacAnna

Wheels, film adaptation of the short story. Adapted and directed by Cathal Black, 1976.

The Lost Hour
, television adaptation of The Leavetaking, adapted by Carlo Gebler, directed by Tony Barry. RTE, 1983.

The Key
, television adaptation of a work of McGahern (possibly "Bomb Box", but unverified), adapted by Carlo Gebler, directed by Tony Barry, RTE 1985.
Korea, film adaptation of teh short story, screenplay by Joe O'Byrne, directed by Cathal Black. 1995.
Amongst Women, audiobook, read by Stephen Rea, Faber 1997.

My Love, My Umbrella
, an opera version of that story, "Sierra Leone" and "Gold Watch". Adapted into a libretto by James Conway, score by Kevin O'Connell, first performed 9 October 1997 at the Stamford Arts Centre, England.
Amongst Women [2], television adaptation, screenplay by Adrian Hodges, directed by Tom Cairns. First Broadcast on RTE 1, 17 May - 7 June 1998.
Swallows, film adaptation of the short story, adapted and directed by Michael O'Connell. 2000.

Details from Stanley van der Ziel's annotated bibliography in the Irish University Review special on McGahern, 2005.

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