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Man of Aran (Restored Edition) [DVD]
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Explorer, filmmaker and visual anthropologist Robert J Flaherty s 1934 film Man of Aran stands up to be counted once again.
Three years in the making, Flaherty s epic portrayal of life off the western coast of Ireland where families eked out a living from potatoes and shark oil is a brutal, beautiful and pioneering film that still challenges the boundaries of the documentary form.
This singular and stunning film has undergone a full digital restoration and this release contains a host of extras including original outtake footage, Jim Mulkerns celebrated short film Return of the Islander and George Stoney s excellent 1978 documentary How The Myth Was Made detailing the many tricks Flaherty pulled to put his vision on the screen.
At the World s End, there will always be The Man of Aran.
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Set on the desolate and windswept islands of Aran off the West coast of Ireland, we follow the day to day battle for existence against the elements by the islanders. Their's was a hard life dictated by the seasons and the prevailing weather conditions. The sea which was their best friend could also be their worst enemy. But despite the harsh conditions the film also shows the breathtaking beauty of the islands, where quick changes in weather and light can transform landscapes in an instant to Elysium fields. Flaherty follows the life of a family struggling to make a living on the edge of the world. The film has been criticised for using different people, rather than one family as depicted in the film, purely on the basis of looks. The hunting of the basking shark that was depicted as part of island life had actually stopped many years before. But surely this artistic licence can be granted to Flaherty? Even David Attenborough is not above such tricks! Such is the power of the film that it gave me a lifelong love of the West coast of the emerald island, perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever visited. Flaherty's wonderful film captures the time period before everything changed. The islands are now a tourist destination, with the residents living much more comfortable lives. But where are the storytellers over the peat hearth? They are just a memory now!
If you are interested in films or books with a Gaelic theme, that depict a way of life now gone, I can heartily recommend the following items.
1) Michael Powell's wonderfully BFI restored film "Edge of the World"(38), an insightful film based on the real life evacuation of St Kilda off the West Scottish coast.
2) Maurice O'Sullivan's magical little book "Twenty Years a Growin", based on his life on the Blasket Islands also off the West coast of Ireland. A beautiful place that I have had the privilege of visiting. Now of course long since abandoned.
3) J M Synge's superb account of island life "The Aran Islands". First written in 1907, Synge accurately depicts the life of the islanders amongst whom he lived, in what is a very human and moving account, but also of great value to the scholarly ethnographer. A unique work.
4) ***IMPORTANT*** Although the restored region 1 DVD is excellent, it is worth checking out the 2009 album "Man of Aran" by British Sea Power. They have provided a track for the film rich with penny whistles, glockenspiels, sedate pianos and also a lovely folk duet. The music compliments the film perfectly. Most importantly the album also contains the double bonus of the film DVD. If you wish to purchase the film DVD, then at the time of this review this is may be the most economic way of doing it. Don't take my word for it, you can see for yourself.
To the serious student of the cinema, and anyone with a heart for the old Gaelic way of life, then this is a must see film.
I watched it again but now I also watched a documentary about the film and
feel really disappointed in Robert Flaherty.
The main thing to know about this film is that it is not a documentary. It is poetry.
It is definitely worth watching it but, after the film, do watch the one hour documentary
"How the Mith was made" that is in the extra features. The documentary is absolutely essential.
The only problem is that the documentary lacks subtitles. Too bad because even native English speakers
will have difficulty to understand part of the interviews with people from the island of Aran.
There is also a short documentary, "Return of the Islander", that has the most beautiful sunset that I've seen on a film.
It also has the most beautiful image of seagulls. The extra features also has two short documentaries directed by Robert Flaherty.
I was thinking that maybe this film would deserve a better job than the one did by Park Circus.
Things like being on blu ray instead of dvd and also it would be nice to have a booklet. But,
seeing Robert Flaherty under a new light I think not. A DVD with no booklet is enough for this film.
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Recommended to us by an Irishman with an interest in history.