CIFF 09: The Eclipse
I regret that my summertime undertaking of a theater-centered blog to complement this one was such a quick casualty of the busy fall, but I will hope to check in over there occasionally. I do love plays, and I'm always eager to see how strong playwrights fare as their work travels to the screen, particularly when they get to test their own hands in this new medium. I was off-consensus last year about Martin McDonagh's feature-length debut In Bruges, which I found to be hectoring and over-worked, and lacking the emotional sincerity that would have driven home its ambitious character arcs and committed central performances. Still, I can see why people who like In Bruges like it. I will be less easy to persuade that my cool response to The Eclipse, a rare cinematic foray for Shining City and Seafarer scribe Conor McPherson, amounts so easily to an issue of personal taste, and I doubt it will prompt nearly as many people to try to bring me around to greater enthusiasm. It works serviceably as a generically spooky mood-piece and has some nice acting moments from Ciarán Hinds and Iben Hjejle, plus it's the only movie that's ever found occasion for the line, "Yes, I was terrified, but at the same time I was so intrigued and fascinated that I actually wound up studying theoretical physics at university." The auditor of this comment offers the only conceivable response, which is "Jesus!"
Now, that's entertainment. Unfortunately, though, The Eclispe lacks the focus or the courage to be as fragile and understated in generating its eerie moods as McPherson's play scripts generally are. There's also one howler of a performance from someone who should really know better. You can read my full reaction here, but as always with festival reviews, I warmly invite you to go check it out for yourself. Hinds did win the Best Actor prize at Tribeca for this turn, and if low-intensity disquiet and a few whiplash jolts are what you're after, this might be just the vehicle.
The Eclipse plays tonight, Friday 10/9, and also on Saturday 10/10 and Friday 10/16.