Despite some fine cinematography, symbolic juxtaposition of images and an excellent soundtrack this 1994 film somehow doesn’t come together. It focuses on two brothers, Patrick and Dominic who live a carefree existence in the west of Ireland until they meet Anje, a German girl who they both fall for.
The first part is filmed in Co Kerry (I think) and it is beautifully shot. The brothers live in a ramshackle house, fishing and hunting for their food and generally having an easy time of it. Authority figures, including the parish priest and an aunt, try to interfere, insisting that Dominic, who is in his mid-teens, should be attending school, but the brothers manage to thwart their meddling.
Things change when Anje arrives and agrees to give Dominic lessons at home. She is initially attracted to the older Patrick, although it is clear that Dominic is also infatuated with her. The return of the brothers’ mother, played by Marianne Faithful, from Africa where she had been teaching disrupts the delicate series of inter-relationships, although she is welcomed by Dominic her presence is resented by Patrick who accuses her of having abandoned them only to come sailing back in unannounced.
Patrick and Anje become lovers in David Leane-esque scene (Dr Zhivago/Ryan’s Daughter), intercut with Dominic trying to stop his greyhound Uisce chasing after a white hare and killing it – the symbolic death of the innocence of the three-way relationship and the rural idyll in which they have lived.
The brothers and Anje move to Dublin where Patrick gets work in a shop that supplies churches – candles, statues, chalices and priestly vestments. The urban setting of the big city and Patrick’s tedious job contrast with the earlier rural idle. Things between him and Anje are souring and she is more drawn to Dominic. Patrick realises what is happening and vents his anger on his younger brother who decides to run away to sea, securing his passage on a ship after he bets on the greyhound Uisce winning a race.
First Dominic returns to their west of Ireland home and, in another heavily symbolic scene, torches the cabin where Patrick and Anje consummated their relationship.
Despite Anje’s advances he refuses to become her lover because he does not want to betray his brother, although Patrick still blames him for the break-up when Anje returns to Germany. In the end the brothers are reconciled as Dominic heads off to sea, leaving Patrick with only their dog in Dublin.
The soundtrack is the music of Van Morrison – Moondance, Madame George, Cyprus Avenue and Poetic Champion’s Compose – with the vocals being provided by Brian Kennedy, Shanna Morrison and Marianne Faithful herself with a fine version of Madame George.
The story is based on an early novel by Francis Stuart – The White Hare –the theme of a small utopian community set up as a counter-current and eventually being ripped apart by the waves of consumerism reflected in the rural/urban settings and the fracturing series of relationships between Patrick, Dominic and Anje is typically Stuartian.
Unfortunately the film suffers from some hammy acting and the story seems unsure where it is going and what themes it should be running with. I was left with the impression of a series of well-executed set pieces, linked in with some frankly cringe-worthy scenes and an extended video for the music of Van Morrison – no bad thing, but just not fitting in to the narrative.