Your RDA of Irony

Unintelligible Excellence

Three years, I went to our local movie theater with the intent of seeing “The Wind That Shakes Barley“, an acclaimed Irish film that relates (read this with  a brogue) “The Troubles.” The owner and manager of this theater knows me to be a fan of fine foreign films–and a loyal customer, so he made a point of warning me about this movie. Yes, the film was excellent but its dialogue was authentically Irish-English and an unintelligible mumble. The manager said that he had seen the film twice and still could not understand half of the dialogue. Under normal–masochistic–circumstances, I would have braved the Gaelic din, but it seemed unfair to bewilder my wife. We saw another film–which I cannot recall.

However, if you wait long enough and pay a fortune for cable television, you will have the chance to see any movie that you missed the first time around. “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” was broadcast last week, and I finally saw–and heard–it. To be honest, I might as well have watched a silent movie. The dialogue defies comprehension.  Ten minutes before the film’s end I deciphered that the two main characters were brothers. Of course, many silent movies were excellent; and so is this. The emotions and the conflicts of Ireland in 1920 are powerfully conveyed.

Ironically, the dialogue is not completely unintelligible. The bad guys speak clear English because that happens to be their nationality. In fact, one Anglo-Irish aristocrat (and complete bastard) possesses such a melodious diction that you would want to hear him recite Shakespeare before he is so deservedly gunned down.

When kidnapped by the IRA, the aristocrat sneers that Irish independence would only lead to a priest-infested rule. If you know Irish history–or have seen “The Magdalene Sisters”–you might concede the truth of his comment. But if the Irish lived under repressive Catholicism, at least that was their choice. Self-determination allows a people to construct their society based on their own values and prejudices. Yes, they even have the right to be myopic, backwards or parochial, and it is not the prerogative of a more advanced society to impose itself. My Judean ancestors did not appreciate Rome’s “improvements”, and the Spanish rebelled against Napoleon’s Enlightenment.  I am sure that you can think of more recent examples.   The natives always prove ungrateful for the foisted gifts of the superior power.

That is one lesson that the “primitive society” teaches the civilized, but the civilized never seem to learn.

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