A CELTIC TRILOGY -- At the Inner Circle.
There is a wealth of beauty, of pictures and sound, in "A Celtic Trilogy," but the claim in its subtitle, that it is "dedicated to the fine tradition of storytelling and enraptured listening," is false.
What a pleasure it would be to listen, enraptured, to Siobhan McKenna recounting history and legends, or to take in a sense of tradition from the land, people, artifacts, folk arts and monuments of the descendants of that culture.
But one can't do all that at once. In celebrating the Celtic past and present, why doesn't the filmmaker, Kathleen Dowdey, trust in her subject and her own artistic eye to fix the attention of the viewer?
Instead, she has McKenna telling the story of Tristram and Isolde while at the same time she shows us how harps are made. The soundtrack is shared -- McKenna's magnificent voice, and the sawing of wood and the twanging of strings in the background. They are both good scenes, worthy of undivided attention, but the connection is tenuous at best.
In another case, the implied relationship is even worse. McKenna tells of "the unending orgy of slaughter" of Oliver Cromwell's Drogheda Massacre, while the screen shows an Irish cattle market and butchering devices. Whether the slaughtered Irish are identified with the dumb cattle, or the modern Irish with butchering comparable to Cromwell's, the metaphor is repulsive.
Throughout the film, there is a fragmentary and apparently arbitrary mixture of the old and new Celtic elements in Ireland, Britany and Wales -- scenery, interviews with people who are never identified, political speeches, highways, labor, dances, meetings, ancient carvings. With the possible exception of the many views of traffic congestion, there isn't one that wouldn't be riveting by itself. But to throw them all together is not only jarring, but disrespectful.
The soundtrack never has fewer than two, and usually three, of the following elements simultaneously: poetry, music, nature noises, labor noises, speeches and translations of statements. The listener who wants only to be allowed to be enraptured is, instead, bombarded.