Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Spengler on the Lee

Before dozing off last night, I watched a 1999 flick, The Last September. Set in 1920 Ireland, in the rural part of Cork --hence the River Lee above-- it is a tale of the ending of a world --hence the Spengler above.* Rural country houses seem to be the place for this kind of slow-motion genteel Götterdämerung, as in 1985's The Shooting Party.
Anyway, it's the Anglo Irish, the Ascendancy, as they were called, the families who had ruled Ireland and staffed its professions since the days of the imposed Reformation. They became strange creatures over time, feeling English in Ireland, and Irish in England. The natives, stubbornly Catholic, were often dispossessed and were for centuries forbidden the professions or higher education.

It is the last September of parties, games, dinners, etc. The rebels are about, along with the Black and Tans --whom my Irish-American grandmother taught me to hate even from the distance of time and America-- and the British army. A solid set of oft-seen Anglo actors holds it together, --Michael Gambone, Maggie Smith (who meet again at Hogwarts), Fiona Shaw (now playing a troublesome witch on True Blood) and one of Dr Who's latterly avatars, David Tennant--although the central character, Keeley Hawes as Lois, is more a set of shallow moody outbursts and disparate character fragments than a real young woman. I found her both unlikeable and unfocussed. But that may be part of the point.

In the movie, the denouement is sad but mostly interpersonally focussed. In the book, Wikipedia told me, the great house was burned to the ground.

Anyhoo, the film is great on period detail and social convention, as well as reminding us of how nasty was the long war of the Hibernians and the AngloSaxons. And it also depicted a long-standing social and political order on the verge of collapse. Reminding us of how swiftly that can happen. I did not sleep easily or dream pleasantly last night.

*Ex Cathedra selling point: where else can you get sentences with "hence" in them? Twice.

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