Sunday 21 April 2019

100 Essential Films That Deserve More Attention - 42. The Field

People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to experience the escapism of a captivating story, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.

With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.

This series of articles aims to highlight the overlooked masterpieces that I have unearthed whilst exploring the forgotten recesses of cinema. Take a gamble on any one of these films and I guarantee that you will be eagerly awaiting all future instalments in this series. You may well have heard of a number of these films; my aim isn't merely to shine a spotlight on the most obscure films out there, but to share my enjoyment of those films which don't have the cult following I believe they deserve.

The Field
Director - Jim Sheridan
Country - Ireland
Year 1991
Runtime - 107 minutes

Set in a small rural village in Ireland circa 1930, The field is a bleak drama about a feud over a prized patch of farming land. The fertile plot is owned by a lonely widow who rents the field out to her neighbour, 'Bull' McCabe, who has toiled the land ever since her husband passed away over ten years ago. Bull has designs upon this land and is horrified when the widow announces her plans to sell the field in a public auction to spite McCabe; an auction that attracts the attention of a rich Irish American businessman who has his own ideas about transforming the area.

Richard Harris stars as the strong and stubborn Bull, with Sean Bean portraying his timid son, Tadgh, who is struggling to escape from the commanding presence of his father. They are often accompanied by Bull's odd friend, Bird (John Hurt), whose mischievous and cowardly nature make him the perfect target for Bull's manipulative influence. The McCabe family don't take kindly to the arrival of the mysterious American stranger, Peter (Tom Berenger), especially when his intentions become known, and the ensuing intimidation and conflict causes pain and suffering for both parties.

At first glance, rural life in this stunning part of the world appears blissful but - underneath the surface - grudges and hostilities bubble away. The beautiful Irish countryside acts as a breathtaking backdrop to this enthralling story; its picturesque vistas at odds with the cruel and malicious intentions of certain villagers who will stop at nothing to have their own way. Before Peter's arrival there are already signs of cracks appearing in the McCabe family's hold over the local land, and Bird's interference with a group of travellers sets in motion a downward spiral that places them all in a precarious position.

Director Jim Sheridan assembled an impressive ensemble cast of thespians for The Field, and their excellent characterisations bring the gripping screenplay to life with a raw intensity that ratchets up the emotional impact of this devastating film. Harris was deservedly nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Bull, and his exceptional performance as a man struggling to come to terms with his own past (and his son's future) is amongst his finest hours. Bean is likewise excellent as Tadgh, providing the young farmhand with a naieve innocence as he tries to live up to the shadow of his older brother who sadly passed away when he was just a young boy. Tadgh's desire to become his own man is strong but this is at odds with his father's wishes for him to settle down as a farmer with a suitor chosen primarily for her inheritance.

From the intriguing opening scene to the traumatic conclusion, The Field holds your attention fast with its assortment of beguiling characters and their fascinating quirks that are an absolute pleasure to behold. The outstanding storyline is a tragedy of Shakespearean magnitude with all manner of narrative flourishes that remain relevant to the central conceit, and serve to drive home the powerful message at the heart of the film. As upsetting as the McCabe's ordeal may be it provides us with an extraordinary insight into the eternal bond between father and son, and provides the viewer with an incredibly poignant and moving experience.

The Field is a deeply affecting film with an unusual and highly memorable storyline that delves deep into the themes of guilt and regret. Powerhouse performances from a remarkably talented group of actors mark it as a sublime viewing experience that is likely to be appreciated by those who relish the opportunity to discover as much about themselves as the characters they are watching. This is one of the finest Irish exports of the 1990s and it deserves to be recognised as a defining moment in Sheridan's filmography alongside his revered classics In The Name of The Father and My Left Foot.

If you take the time to watch The Field then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!

For previous instalments in the series click here

1 comment:

  1. This film is not actually not about a field at all, its about a Man called Bull McCabe, who destroys everything and everybody through his bullying, stubbornness and bitterness. A classic take on the damage people can do.