In a House That Ceased to Be review: Christina Noble doc is moving – and hard-hitting

As well as offering an unforgiving denunciation of the poisonous symbiosis that once existed between Catholic Church and Irish State, In a House That Ceased to Be also manages an argument for common decency

Film Title: In a House That Ceased To Be

Director: Ciarín Scott

Starring:

Genre: Documentary

Running Time: 91 min

Thu, Mar 12, 2015, 20:00

   

It’s hard to imagine that we will see a more moving film this year than this documentary about the indomitable, proudly eccentric Christina Noble.

As well as offering an unforgiving denunciation of the poisonous symbiosis that once existed between Catholic Church and Irish State, In a House That Ceased to Be also manages – more encouragingly – an argument for common decency that somehow avoids sentimentality. “Love is so powerful and strong,” Nobel tells a young, profoundly disabled Vietnamese girl. “And we don’t even have to pay for it.”

The Dubliner’s belief in the potency of love seems all the more remarkable when you consider the wretchedness of her upbringing. The story will be known from newspaper reports and from the admirable recent biopic starring Deirdre O’Kane, but this digs deeper into the historical grime than some viewers may find comfortable.

Four decades before she began assisting homeless children in Vietnam and Mongolia, Noble and her three siblings were separated by the authorities and dispatched to various horrible Church-run institutions. One of the film’s most remarkable scenes finds its subject (a superb swearer, by the way) fuming outside one such orphanage.

“I can’t tell you what they did to my sisters,” she rants. Another attempt is made at control. It fails. “Hand in glove!” she spits, remembering that coalition between Church and State. Her brother’s calm detailing of specific cruelties are, if anything, even more powerful.

Director Ciarín Scott certainly has a peach of a subject (charismatic, funny, probably hard to live with), but it can’t be denied that she makes the very best of the fecund material. Shooting on widescreen in such disparate locales as Mongolia, Vietnam, Texas and Brighton, she breaks up the interchanges with vistas of great beauty. The final graceful tracking shot honours a painfully tender relationship.

Not to be missed.