Film Miv Evans

North Circular

By Miv Evans

The subject of most musical documentaries is usually a musician, but North Circular is different, and not in a good way.  This time we meet a random group of Dubliners who wax lyrical about the past but the inter cutting music, as beautiful as it is, has no bearing on their tales.  This takes the genre into no-man’s-land and ends up playing like a series of local TV broadcasts that could have been set anywhere.  If it’s not about the music and it’s not uniquely Irish, what’s the point?   

This film begins in a pub where a young maiden sits alone and delivers a lament in a hauntingly beautiful voice.  It’s compelling.  But then she is gone and we never learn how someone so young could sing with such soul.   The next disappointment is that it’s not just the intro that’s in black and white; it’s the whole film.  Life is never in black and white, so why present it as such?  But no sooner has this question been asked than endless stunning but irrelevant shots drift across the screen.  By the end of the first 10 minutes, it’s clear that this film is a masterpiece in self indulgence. 

Along the way we meet many people but they never stay long enough for us to get to know them.  One of them is a middle-aged woman who grieves the loss of the community where she was brought up.  As nostalgic as she is, her personal story is never shared so empathy is limited.  There’s another story about a soon-to-be-demolished pub, which motivates an entire neighborhood to stage a protest.  These two accounts have a similar theme, but that’s where connectivity ends.  

We meet a street musician who tells a sorry tale of past hardships but who now seems content with his lot.  A much younger man relates a tragedy that paints a picture of an uncaring community, which is at odds with what has gone before.  To add to the confusion, a young girl suddenly appears and dives headlong into a narration about her Celtic roots.  The transition jars but what this Colleen has to say is fascinating.  In fact, she probably  had enough material to fill the entire film.  

There can be no country richer in music and folk lore and tragedy and conflict than Ireland.  So perhaps the filmmakers decided that, with such a powerful backdrop, they didn’t have to try that hard.  So they threw in a few hornpipes, got their interviewees to kiss the Blarney Stone and hoped for the best.  Unfortunately for them, however, the luck of the Irish didn’t stretch that far.             



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