Ireland has the uneven weather, scenery and extras medieval films need
There are plenty of reasons to catch Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel when it opens next week. Matt Damon and Adam Driver hammer each other with gnarled battle axes. Jodie Comer appears as an officially certified superstar. There are (surprisingly for a film set in 1386) thoughtful comments about the #MeToo rearrangements.
Check it out, too, for further confirmation that despite all of our buzzing digital innovations, Ireland remains the most medieval country in the world. Others competed. Scotland has an occasional crack. Romania contested the title two decades ago. But, since about the fifth century, Ireland has been the best place to die of the plague in a rat-infested dungeon. Put it on your banner and hoist it high above the besieged ramparts.
Are you looking for a place that the Renaissance forgot? We have many varieties of the dark ages on this island
Unless you’ve spent the past summer creating illuminated manuscripts in an island hermitage, you know that, inconvenienced by our era’s variation on the plague while filming the film, Damon had a great time. party of 2020 to charm Dalkey with its purchases of unassuming convenience.
Where else other than Ireland would you go to shoot such a movie? The final duel comes just weeks after The Green Knight, a psychedelic version bordering on a classic 14th-century poem, showed some of the same locations. Cahir Castle, which has dominated the Suir since 1142, has also appeared in Excalibur and The Tudors. Dev Patel, star of The Green Knight, traveled from this pile to Chateau de Charleville in Tullamore. The soggy Midlands were as convincing in the role of England as they were playing France in The Last Duel. Are you looking for a place that the Renaissance forgot? We have many varieties of the Dark Ages on this island.
The nation has been offering filmmakers medieval venues for nearly a century. In 1944, when the UK was distracted by concerns in the east, Laurence Olivier brought her classic adaptation of Henry V to Co Wicklow. A few decades later, for Excalibur, John Boorman reinvented Camelot in this county as well as in Tipperary and Kerry. The Princess Bride made famous use of the Cliffs of Moher. Braveheart turned Ireland into Scotland.
On television, Game of Thrones – set in a fantasy variation of medieval Britain – has made creative use of Northern Ireland. We have hosted several series of Vikings and his successor, Valhalla. The list could go on for as long as the Third Crusade.
So how did we corner the market in medieval places? Our high rating on the International Castle Index is certainly a factor. Several silly websites I just visited put the number of these buildings – combining shattered ruins with functioning seaside resorts – at around 30,000. Our neighbors in Wales have the highest number of castles per capita in the world. world, but the rate of around 170 people per stack in Ireland is still impressive. If every building was in perfect condition, we could pretty much house the whole nation in medieval accommodation.
It is important that we now have a large number of very experienced film professionals to light castles, shoot castles [and] dress up the castles …
There is more to it. A less facetious column would tell of the important work of various government and quasi-government agencies over the years. Over the past decades, Screen Ireland (formerly Irish Film Board) and Northern Ireland Screen (formerly Northern Ireland Film Council) have made efforts to attract foreign filmmakers to their respective territories. It is important that we now have a significant number of highly experienced film professionals to light castles, film castles, dress castles, record sounds in castles, and stitch the resulting images together into a cohesive castles narrative.
Yet unlike, say, Vancouver, nowhere in Ireland has developed a reliable backup career for New York City. We don’t have the skyscrapers or the right kind of seedy lane. The nation also doesn’t offer much for those looking for sci-fi futurism. Star Wars Island, our most recent and notable contribution to franchise cinema, could hardly be more in the medieval lineage. Former Skellig Michael provides Luke Skywalker with the same kind of rudimentary shelter that the Augustinian monks once enjoyed.
Steven Spielberg can stage the Normandy landings at Wexford to save Private Ryan. Martin Ritt can turn Smithfield into Cold War Berlin for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. But our temporal specialty is always shaped by maggots, buboes, siege towers, flaming witches and, to quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “strange women lying in ponds distributing swords.” (Alas, the Scots entered before us when the Pythons were shopping for the castles.)
Much of this is due to our negative perception of the times that historians no longer call the Dark Ages. These boffins are always on TV trying to dispel simplistic notions about this sprawling time – a millennium, remember – but filmmakers stubbornly prefer gray skies, religious persecution, brutally short lives.
Relics of sweet Spain or sunny Italy cannot give you the same feeling of moldy desolation. We have the weather for that. We have the landscape for it. We’ve got the pale and patchy extras for it.
It is not just about the castles.