Review: Living in a Coded Land

Living in a Coded Land
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Director: Pat Collins
Cert: Club
Genre: Documentary
Starring: N/A
Running Time: 1 hr 20 mins

Pat Collins's documentary oeuvre is frequently characterised as Slow Cinema. We're not so sure. True, the film-maker's visual essays, although contemplative and associational, could seldom be confused with the urgent, lens-based pamphlets of Adam Curtis.

To date, Collins's ruminations on the west ( Tim Robinson: Connemara and Pilgrim ), emigration ( What We Leave in our Wake ) and assorted artists (John McGahern, Abbas Kiarostami, Gabriel Byrne) have maintained a graceful pace: all the better to scope out fascinating connections and provide pause for thought. But don't be fooled by the rhythms and the nostalgia-making archive footage of the Drimoleague director's cinematic exploration of the Irish midlands.

Living in a Coded Land is all about the middle, namely Co Westmeath, and its shifting relationship with colonial and national powers. And the middle as in middlemen, who rose up under British rule as the cattle hands of the 1600s and who continue, spiritually speaking, to dominate the nation as bankers and managers. None of the film's many contributors – academics, historians, cartographers – feel obliged to add that middle men are only capable of middling outcomes. Slow? Look closer.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic