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Trailer for The Field

Screencaps from The Field

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Audio clip _  Tadgh Files/I-dont-care-about-the-land.mp3


To Bull McCabe (Richard Harris) it is his life, but now The Field he has worked and loved for as long as he can remember is to be sold by public auction. Years of backbreaking toil has transformed the field from three acres of rock and scrub into a lush green pasture. So when the widow (Frances Tomelty) decides to put the property up for auction without any consideration of his work, an outraged McCabe is determined to buy it at all costs.


When as American (Tom Berenger) bids for the land against Bull, the stage is set for a fearful confrontation that both men are determined to win. With both the land and their livelihood at stake Bull and his son Tadgh (Sean Bean) attempt to frighten off the American. It's a battle that they can't afford to lose, as The Field holds a dark secret that must be protected at any costs.


Tadgh however, much to Bulls dismay, shows no interest in working The Field or making a life for himself and Bulls anger at Tadgh's affair with a gypsy girl opens up an even bigger gulf between them.


The obsession with The Field at the attempts to make a man out of Tadgh ultimately lead to tragic consequences.


The Field


Cap from the Richard Harris Interview, click for full size


In our over-urbanized society, where space and privacy are at a premium, "The Field" plays as something of an escapist tragedy, being about one man's attachment to his land and, through it, to the elemental forces within his own nature.


The setting is rural Ireland, on the rugged but beautiful, underpopulated western coast, and the time, to judge from the clothes and the automobiles, the 1930's. The year is never stated. It could be any time, the better to evoke a sense of myth to match the kind of story it is.


"The Field," written and directed by Jim Sheridan ("My Left Foot"), is about a grandly photogenic old man named Bull McCabe (Richard Harris) and his grandly photogenic undoing. It opens today at the Murray Hill Cinemas.


Like his father, and his father's father before him, Bull has nurtured one patch of the barren landscape into a small field that supports sheep and cattle enough to support his family. Unfortunately for them, the McCabes do not own the land. They rent it.

Life is not easy. Bull and his son Tadgh (Sean Bean) work sunup to sundown. It's made no easier by the fact that Bull and his wife, Maggie (Brenda Fricker), have not spoken for 18 years. There is a mystery in their past, which has to do with an older son who died, but that isn't talked about until the middle of what might be Act III.


"The Field" is a movie that all too often reveals its origins as a play (by John B. Keane). It is sincere and symmetrical and full of references to primal passions that evoke the tougher but less anxious times of long ago. It's a sorrowful fable that depends a lot on one's susceptibility to sorrowful fables about primal passions.


Mr. Sheridan and his cast clearly respond from the heart. Mr. Harris, looking a lot like Michelangelo's God (but less weatherbeaten), gives a big, actory performance as Bull at that moment in his life when all comes crashing down around him. "God made the world, but we made the field," Bull tells Tadgh with pride, shortly before his fall. It's as if he and God were separate but equal.


A few days later, the field's owner, a widow, sells it at auction to a young American (Tom Berenger), who plans to pave it over and do other crass things in the cause of commerce.

The local priest is no help but then, as Bull notes, "no priests died in the time of the famine." Says the priest to the American, "It's just a thin veneer of Christianity we've painted over these people."

Bull tries to reason with the interloper, but unsuccessfully, leading to an operatic finale.

"The Field" is a very small story that aspires to large poetic significance. It is full of atmosphere: swirling fog, great storm clouds, torrential rains and other elemental things, including mud.


The faces of the people in the town pub are authentic and hard bitten. Beginning with Mr. Harris's, the faces of the professional actors never quite fit in. No matter how sincere they feel, they all look like actors, including Miss Fricker, who won an Oscar for her much more effective performance in "My Left Foot."


The usually fine John Hurt acts up a storm of his own, but even he never seems indigenous to this landscape. He plays the town gofer, a fellow not all there in the head, a variation on the role played with fewer teeth by John Mills in David Lean's somewhat more romantic "Ryan's Daughter."

Mr. Berenger gives a decent performance as the American, but he's not on screen very long.


Source: N.Y. Times




The Washington Posr Review


‘The Field’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 25, 1991 

A primal force is Bull McCabe, a bellowing storm of begorra blown round by Richard Harris in "The Field," a blustering tale of The Land, a wild Irish second film from Jim Sheridan. Based on a play by John B. Keane, it is myth broad enough to accommodate, if not contain, both actor's and director's unbounded enthusiasm for their Irishness. Aye, these two have bruised lips from kissing the Blarney Stone.


Set in western Ireland in the 1930s, the film concerns the local reverence for The Land, a lingering animism that finds Bull McCabe, like some pagan priest, sacrificing life, love and Heaven itself for a small plot of sweat-sweetened pastureland. "This is what we'd be if it weren't for the land," he tells his son Tadgh (Sean Bean) as the two gather seaweed for the stoking o' the soil. Sure and 'tis wet kelp we'd be without the holy earth to keep us dry.


His rented field is the one thing McCabe has managed to change for the better in his threescore years of trying. Tortured by his first son's suicide, disappointed in Tadgh, rejected by his wife (Brenda Fricker), who has neither slept with nor spoken to him for 18 years, betrayed by the parish priest, haunted by Ireland's tragic history, McCabe's got everything but Job's boils. We can hardly blame him for obsessing on his pretty field.


Aye, but obsession will drive a body mad it will. And McCabe, though a strong and willful one, is no exception. For years he's been tending the field, which belongs to a widow who is selling it partly to spite the McCabes. But by local lore the field belongs to McCabe, who with Tadgh has turned the rock-strewn parcel into a jewel that would make a leprechaun greener with envy.


McCabe, who is not named Bull for nothing, is not worried when the field is put up for auction, for none of the locals would dare top his bid of 50 pounds. What he hadn't counted on was the American (Tom Berenger), a land developer who wants to cover the field, naturally, with concrete, thus adding concern for the ecology to the mighty McCabe's burdens. "This is deep, very deep, deeper than you think," says the Bull, prior to setting Tadgh on the American.


Poor Tadgh. If only he could get up his nerve, he'd run off with the local Carmen (alluring Jenny Conroy), the tinker's redheaded daughter. The Land is of no interest to this repressed, inbred youth, whose dramatic task is to break away from his father. Bean gives one of the most believable performances in this florid allegory, which also features John Hurt as Bird, the town simpleton. Hurt removed his caps for the role and plays it with his own teeth, yellow stubs as rotten as a peat bog.


Though "The Field" gains the use of The Land itself in the transition from stage to screen, as with the majority of plays, there's the groan of the boards in the dialogue. When Bull looks out o'er the blustery sea to the north, you can almost see the footlights glistening in his eyes. Sheridan, who was so honored for "My Left Foot" last year, seems out in left field here, undone by the sheer hokum of the material. Aye, 'tis sad.

"The Field" is rated PG-13 because it contains physical brutality.


Copyright The Washington Post

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