Risings, Reels and Revisionists: 1916 on Screen
I'm giving the eighth in a collective series of Distinguished Lectures to mark the Easter Rising of 1916 at the University of Vienna on Thursday 9 June, 18.00hrs at Hof 8 in the Institute of English and American Studies. Series participants have come from universities in Germany, Austria, Ireland, France and the UK, and have also included a screening of the 1916: The Irish Rebellion (2015) from Notre Dame University/Keogh Chair of Irish Studies.
It has often been remarked that to some of those that witnessed the Easter Rising it was like the staging of a play or a theatrical event, and that the “Proclamation of the Irish Republic” pasted up on walls in Dublin city center was mistaken by some to be a play bill announcing some new performance. In my lecture I want to argue instead that the Rising was eminently cinematic. Alongside the obvious national self-defining role of the Abbey theatre, cinema was fast becoming the popular medium for mass communication (news reels), collective pleasure and entertainment (films) that was to be just as decisive as theatre and no less dramatic or engaging.
I'd like to develop the astute point made by Chris Morash that ‘cinema was being woven into the fabric of Irish life precisely the years that an Irish nation was being defined, fought for and established (Morash, 2010: 153). With my title, “Risings, Reels and Revisionists” I'm going to explore the ways that cinema first reported on and then, successively over the years, how film and TV have represented the tumultuous actions in Dublin on public and domestic screens.
From the Pathe newsreels through to Neil Jordan’s depiction of the devastation in Michael Collins (1996) - shot in real time, real ordinance and thousands of Dubliners as extras - through to the plethora of TV and film documentaries that were released for the centenary in 2016, the lecture will show how film has worked on audiences in each generation, re-visioning plural Risings to something like a mature reflection of its multi-faceted significance in Irish-British history.
As well as illustrating the lecture with film clips, I'll provide script excerpts from Jordan's Michael Collins diary (1996) and unproduced films about Roger Casement and 1916.