An Unusual, Symbolic Film about Ireland's Troubles
Tiggah | Calgary, Alberta Canada | 09/25/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Troubles is a quirky 1989 British film set in Ireland during the tumultuous time after the Easter Rebellion when Ireland as a whole was struggling for independence from Great Britain. The film stars Ian Richardson (House of Cards) and Ian Charleson and opens in 1919 with Major Archer (Charleson), an Englishman, embarking on a trip to Ireland to visit his fiancee, Angela Spencer (Susannah Harker--Jane from Pride and Prejudice), who is also British. Angela lives with her siblings and eccentric father, Edward (Richardson), who owns the Majestic Hotel in which they live. The Hotel, once a glorious and magnificent bastion during the heyday of British rule, is now a dilapidated, ill-equipped shadow of its former self that is overrun with cats, vines, and tree roots bursting through the floor boards. That the Irish cannot/will not any longer be made to conform to the ways of the British by the British is symbolised by the Hotel (itself a metaphor for British presence in Ireland) succumbing to the wild forces of nature which cannot/will not be denied, suppressed and controlled any longer. The Hotel is also rife with images of decay and putrification, symbolic of the dying state of British rule. Edward, in an attempt to bring the Majestic back to its former glory days, renovates the Hotel and holds a huge ball. But it is too little too late, and like Ireland herself, there is no going back. The irony, however, is that Edward's ball and the Hotel itself are sabotaged not by the forces of nature (which Edward, try as he might, ultimately cannot contain) but by the unruly and disrespectful British soldiers, by whose presence in Ireland, it may be argued, more harm was done than good.As for the surface story (if it is a surface story and not yet another extended metaphor), upon arriving in Ireland, the Major, despite repeated attempts, sees Angela only once. Shortly into the story Angela dies (apparently having been ill). The Major then falls in love with Sarah, a spirited young Irish woman, but it too is a weird relationship. That more or less is it, and if it sounds a bit thin, it is because it is. The film is 200-minutes (split into two 100-minute parts), and I must confess I felt it dragged quite a bit. Though the underlying themes are serious, the film is filled with a fair amount of comedy, but it is of a quirky nature as it arises out of the eccentricities of so many of the characters--particularly Edward Spencer. I have not read the novel upon which the film is based, which I suspect might be quite good--certainly having read it would no doubt have enhanced my enjoyment and understanding of the film. As it stands, my feelings about the film are quite mixed; certainly it's not one that I'm eager to re-watch. For those who are curious about this film because it features Sean Bean, I would recommend any number of films before this one (ie. Sharpe, Extremely Dangerous, Bravo Two Zero, Golden Eye, Essex Boys, The Fifteen Streets). The cover of the video misleadingly features a large photo of Bean and lists his name in large print beside Ian Richardson's, suggesting that Bean is a co-star. Such is NOT the case. Bean doesn't make an appearance until roughly 90-minutes into the show, and his role is a very, very small one (he's one of the soldiers--albeit the one in charge). In conclusion, I would not give a general recommendation to this film, and I don't think it would be of great appeal to most Sean Bean fans. It is a very specific group of people to whom this film will likely be of interest--ie. those who have read (and enjoyed) the novel, and possibly those with a strong interest in and knowledge of 20th-century Irish history. (My level of knowledge (which is minimal) sufficed, but only just)."
The Major's Story
Michael Olson | Victoria, British Columbia Canada | 02/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Troubles is a moving, extended meditation on the British presence in Ireland, in the years just prior to that country's independence in 1922. Part comedy, part tragedy, this beautifully filmed drama follows a shell-shocked Major (Ian Charleson) from the trenches of WWI to a crumbling hotel situated in the Irish countryside. In the wake of his betrothed's sudden death, the Major stays on, beguiled by the hotel's bombastic owner, Edward Spencer (Ian Richardson). Soon adopted by an eccentric gathering of staff and guests (all expertly played), the Major is rescued from his isolation, and is ultimately entranced by Ireland itself. Although the political significance behind much of what transpires between the English and Irish characters will likely be lost on a North American audience, Troubles can still be enjoyed simply as the Major's story, as we chart his gradual transformation from embittered war veteran to lover, confidante and friend.The British military contingent is the least sympathetic element in the film, as it is surely meant to be. This undisciplined platoon, led by Sean Bean in a minor role, sparks two of the film's dramatic crises, and confirms all our suspicions regarding the evils of colonial domination.It seems unfair that Ian Charleson, who died in 1990, did not receive more prominent billing in the current DVD release of this superb film. By replacing his cover image with those of Ian Richardson and Sean Bean, the studio has misled the public as to who is actually the star of Troubles, and who are the supporting players."