New perspectives on the film The Quiet Man

Monday, 26 September 2005

The Huston School of Film & Digital Media, NUI Galway. 29th September-2nd October 2005

In 1996, it was voted the most popular Irish film of all time by Irish Times readers and continues to fascinate people. When it was released on video in 1985, it sold 200,000 copies in Britain alone within four years. The John Ford classic film The Quiet Man continues to fascinate and enthral audiences, making it a cult movie like others such as Gone with the Wind and Ryan's Daughter. However, some people regard it as idealistic, nostalgic and containing more than its fair share of paddywhackery.

A modern viewing of The Quiet Man provides much food for thought and from the 29th September – 2 October a conference entitled "New perspectives on The Quiet Man" will be hosted by the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at NUI Galway. The event involves both the analysis of aspects of The Quiet Man as myth, commodity and fetish and the celebration of a film that has sustained such enthusiastic attention and popular appreciation for 50 years.

Among the topics considered will be the complexity of the film's relation to Ireland and to John Ford s other films; its perceived place with regard to indigenous Irish cinema; and the phenomenon of its circulation and reception as a cult film over the years.

As Rod Stoneman, Director of the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at NUI Galway has remarked: " The Quiet Man is a pivotal film in Irish culture, a film that has achieved cult status long ago and been much debated in recent years. John Ford s classic film offered an image of Ireland that has circulated internationally and still brings many tourists to these shores. It is especially appropriate to be staging the conference amid the locations of the film's original shooting in 1951."

Among the contributors to the conference will be some leading international academics, including Professor Luke Gibbons (Keough Family Chair of Irish Studies, University of Notre Dame), Dr. Ruth Barton (University College, Dublin), Dr. Richard C. Allen (University of Sunderland, UK), and Dr. Michael Gillespie (Louise Edna Goeden Professor of English, Marquette University, Wisconsin, USA).

Luke Gibbons, the author of a book on the film, will examine The Quiet Man with regard to John Ford's westerns.

Ruth Barton argues that we need to read the character of Mary Kate in The Quiet Man against the background of Maureen O Hara as the star of a series of films previous to The Quiet Man that saw her wield a sword, ride horseback across the desert and make love to pirates of dubious reputation, in films such as The Spanish Main and Sinbad the Sailor, and not exclusively as a fantasised representation of Irish femininity.

Richard C. Allen, in a paper entitled " 'I've come home, and home I'm gonna stay': The Quiet Man in Irish-American cinematic history," argues that while the film is fictional and stereotypical, it offers some powerful insights into the experience of exile and homecoming. Indeed, as a vehicle for exploring issues such as emigration and exile; landownership; the subordination of women; and the controlling influence of the Catholic Church, Allen argues that this tragic-comedy allows the audience to engage at a high level with the emotional turbulence of the exile's condition.

Michael Gillespie will present the provocatively titled paper 'Is Californication a Mortal Sin?' in which he argues that The Quiet Man, despite its being made along conventional Hollywood lines, is an Irish film and as such provides insights into what features legitimately define that category.

A full programme of conference papers and screenings is available from the Huston School. There will also be screenings of a special 35mm print of The Quiet Man brought in from an archive in Los Angeles, and related films and visits to the locations in Connemara where the film was made. The Quiet Man screening, to be held in the Town Hall on Saturday (October 1st) at 4pm, will also be preceded by a Q&A with the acclaimed Irish playwright and screenwriter, Hugh Leonard. The fee for this screening is €6/€4.

The conference is one of an ongoing series of events at the Huston School including conferences on 'New Scottish Cinema' on November 4th - 5th and 'Women in the Picture 2' next January.

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