Monday 1 October 2018

Film: 'Black '47'

I so did not want to see this. From the trailer it looked ultra-bleak and violent, confirmed by the reviews - and so it turned out to be. On my way to the cinema, not being in the mood for anything heavy, I'd thought of walking straight past and returning home. However, ultimately a sense of duty prevailed, so in I went.

The title refers to the year 1847 when Protestant Britain occupied and lorded over fiercely Catholic Eire, and the onset of famine was ravaging that island. (Incidentally, in my day it was called 'The Great Potato Famine' but the 'p' word now seems to have been expunged - perhaps to take out any mockery which could belittle the dire fate of the literally millions who starved to death when potato crops were blighted and failed in successive years.)

A visual feature of this grim film is that, appropriately, nearly all the colours have been washed out of it - though most startlingly not the redcoats of the British occupying army. 

Australian James Frecheville plays a deserter from the British army returning home to find that his entire family has been killed or let die by the unfeeling landlord and his minions, and he goes on a revenge mission to mete out summary justice to those responsible, as well as anyone who gets in his way, occupying army included. Meanwhile, a disgraced soldier (Hugo Weaving) with tracking skills and on a charge which may get him executed, is given the chance to redeem himself by assisting in the chase to find this killer. 
Stephen Rea is roped in as guide and Jim Broadbent makes a late appearance as the loathsome and arrogant British government representative supremo.

There are a number of subtitled scenes in the film (not very long, any of them) where Erse, or Irish Gaelic, is spoken.

We've seen the basic plot of this film multiple times before, most notably in Westerns - with a seriously wronged character in an 'avenging angel' role - and there's little that's original about this one apart from its location and political backdrop.
The violent scenes, of which there are quite a few, are all really too short to register as deeply troubling - and one can easily see when they are coming. 

Filmed in Co. Galway, director Lance Daly (who also co-wrote the story) has delivered quite an effective piece, by no means overlong at 94 minutes. But overall it may well appeal more to those who haven't seen this much-used plot up to now. I have to say, however, that if you're looking for an uplifting experience you won't find much to laugh at, or even give a glimmering smile at, here..................6.

(IMDb...............7.1 / Rott. Toms...............6.8 )



  1. Looked to see if this is on around here but no sign of it anywhere. I would have gone today as it sounds ok for a quiet afternoon. I had to go to the library instead.

    1. If one is in the mood to take such an unremittingly gloom-laden tale, it would help, Rachel. I wasn't and it reflected in my verdict. But there's no denying it's efficiently effective in relating what it intended to tell.

      Btw: Good to see your blog 'back'. For a day or two I was worried.

    2. Thank you. I went incognito for a day because I have troll trouble from which I wanted.a break.