Song of Granite is a difficult film to enjoy. Presented in a loose, arty structure of disordered scenes and stock footage, anything after the first 20 minutes or so is extremely hard to get a handle on. A sparsity of dialogue (other than a lot of – non-subtitled – Irish singing) further adds to the confusion and – quite frankly – tedium.
The film comes across as self-indulgent in its repetitive singing and confusing structure when there’s no guide as to what these songs are about other than, presumably, sad things. This results in making director Pat Collins’ favouring of long, uninterrupted shots of singing border on uncomfortably boring.
This biopic of influential, traditional Irish (sean nós) singer Joe Heaney is a niche topic, but the film does itself no favours in allowing provision for an unfamiliar audience to engage with it or be swept along. There are bursts of interest, mainly during Heaney’s childhood – vignettes of going lobstering with his father, singing in the classroom and demonstrating Irish dancing skills all provide intermittent diversion.
The black-and-white cinematography certainly does a good job of setting the period and a certain bleakness of tone – and it works well when interspersed with the stock footage – but it also sucks the life and beauty out of the wild Irish landscape, leaving it oddly flat.
Song of Granite is disappointing; you’d have to be a dedicated fan, in the perfect mindset or ready for a real viewing challenge to gain much stimulation or enjoyment.
It feels so unenlightened and unfair to dismiss an undoubtedly important part of Ireland’s heritage, but it could have been presented so much better. Undoubtedly audacious, Song of Granite still looks unlikely to cause the Academy Awards much bother as Ireland’s official entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
CAST: Michael O’Chonfhlaola, Macdara Ó Fátharta, Leni Parker, Alain Goulem, Colm Seoighe
DIRECTOR: Pat Collins
WRITERS: Pat Collins, Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride, Sharon Whooley
SYNOPSIS: Acclaimed filmmaker Pat Collins brings the dramatic life story of legendary sean nós singer Joe Heaney to the screen.