Living In A Coded Land

Essential viewing for everyone with an Irish passport. 


Living In A Coded Land
Director: Pat Collins

With the weight of history firmly leaning in behind the recent state visit of our President to UKland, it is eerily fitting that Irish audiences be treated to Living In A Coded Land. Unashamedly designed to duel with the Irish condition’s sometimes lazy comfort in itself, Pat Collins’ film essay is both a cattle prod and a soothing balm for the Hibernian Gestalt.

Tracking the same woozy paths to the intellect as he did in Silence (2012) and Tim Robinson: Connemara (2011), Collins makes facing up to the past’s presence in modern Ireland a sensory experience, one where the director’s trademark glacial tempo allows ideas to mature and plant root.

The title says much – this is a decoding of modern Ireland that rocks gently back and forth between today and events centuries ago (the Battles of Aughrim and the Boyne, the Famine, emigration), weaving threads to join them together and arguing that history actually never stopped happening to us here. Battlefield victories give way to architectural pomp and Orange parades. A new Dublin-based business class emerges to dethrone the ruling cattle classes and workplace amateurism elongates itself into a dole-queue culture. These are all things the modern Irishman has long held hunches about but Collins is providing the space and compass points to consider what has always been staring us in the face.

Archive footage from RTE and the IFI wafts in and out of more handsome, ambient contemporary shots. Narration comes from wise voices (Sean O Faolain, The Cruiser, a hypnotic John B Keane) and the sounds of nature and Seamus Ennis’ uilleann pipe lull and stir. With stealth, Collins is making you join the dots. A real achievement in Irish cinema.


First published in the Sunday Independent


Published by

Hilary A White

Dublin-based arts journalist and reviewer, specialising in film, books, music and human-interest stories. Sunday Independent / Irish Independent / / RTE Radio 1 / Today FM

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