Friday, December 13, 2013

David Lean: Ryan's Daughter (1970)

I first saw David Lean's Ryan's Daughter (1970) as a kid, and I recall it as being scandalous in part, with a man and woman, both married but not to each other, riding off into the woods by horseback, then disrobing and so forth. Still there seeing it as an adult, but now within a more coherent framework. A nifty Irish-set film from Lean, following his truly epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965). A fine, meticulous film -- over the top at times, but it all works anyway.  
Ryan's Daughter is set smack dab in the middle of the Great War of 1914-1918, with Ireland still occupied by English soldiers (some of them shell shocked from trench warfare). There's a rising tide or Irish nationalism, and the Easter Uprising has just been "put down." Ryan (Leo McKern) is the village pub owner (aka publican) and a sort of double-dealer between Irish and English.
The main characters in Ryan's Daughter are archetypes of sorts. The rising Free Spirit (Sarah Miles); the Village Priest (Trevor Howard); the cultured but damaged school teacher (Robert Mitchum); the Occupying (English) Officer (Christopher Jones), damaged by war; the (Irish) Patriot-Zealot (Barry Foster); and the Village Idiot (John Mills), damaged but keenly aware. The interplay among these characters, and Ryan, when folded into the historical and ecological context, make the story. Three of the characters show growth and change. 
Comparisons. Besides Lean's other works, this one corresponds with Zorba the Greek (1964) in that the impoverished Villagers in both movies are wildly exuberant at times, but often mobbish, petty, cruel and sometimes violent. There are in both films Outsiders and Outsider-Insiders that stand apart from the madding crowd. There's a remnant of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary (1856) and also I could see some resemblance, transplanted to western Ireland from the Midwestern USA, to Sinclair Lewis' Main Street (1920). Original screenplay by Robert Bolt.

Today's Rune: Gateway.


Charles Gramlich said...

The Irish/English conflict is always of interest to me. the meaning of small drops of blood, of other.

Luma Rosa said...

Hi, Erik!
Have not watched this movie and I'll have to look on the internet because in rental stores, is not found. From what I hear, he was not well accepted by the critics - Will by Puritanism? Madame Bovary also suffered reprisals in his time. Funny that most often are women who do not accept the exposed intimacy of female characters. Thankfully, times have changed and the film, ahead of its time, can still be reonhecido as a masterpiece.
Happy Holidays and Happy 2014!

jodi said...

Erik-it seems certain struggles are timeless!