Monday 20 January 2020

Titanic effort from man headed to the hole

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

You know the guy.

You find him in a lot of films about Alcatraz and the like, burning with a fierce righteousness which enables him to rise above all the brutalities inflicted on him by the regime.

They're always sending him to "the hole" for standing up to their petty bureaucracy, a fate which he accepts with a defiant grin, almost with relish -- he has endured worse things in this life, his troubles often rooted in some terrible crime he had to commit to avenge the cruelties of a faithless woman.

Compared to what he has been through, "the hole" is nothing to him, hence the mysterious grin.

For this, he receives a good kicking. Yet, even as they are brutalising him, the authorities know, deep down, that he is superior to them in every way but rank. Which only deepens their hatred of him, leading to more atrocities on their behalf, another spell in "the hole", perhaps even the ultimate sanction, "the hole of holes".

You know the guy.

What you didn't know until last week, was that he was on the Titanic. Played superbly by Ciaran McMenamin, he could be seen on RTE shovelling a lot of coal into the hellish furnaces of the ship in Saving the Titanic, the docu-drama that was as magnificent-looking as the Titanic itself, when it left Southampton.

He kept shovelling, not just because it was his job, but because it was the right thing to do, keeping the ship afloat for a vital few minutes in which many lives were saved.

Afterwards, he would not accept any credit for this from the cynical operators of the White Star Line, because it would only be playing their game.

Somehow he had survived, eventually becoming a much-loved character in all sorts of crisis situations, from 1912 to the present day.

YOU know that woman too, the one who appears as the mother in the Kerrygold ads.

Over the years, she has been the mother of many, a most unhappy presence. But while our man with the burning righteousness just about squeezed into the plot of Saving The Titanic, the mother in the Kerrygold ad seems to have wandered in from a different dimension.

The exchange between herself and the German lady who has committed the appalling crime of marrying this mother's son, should be fairly light and jaunty.

"Angela, we'll miss your cooking in Berlin, but at least Kerrygold will be there too", the German lady says, as they are sitting at the table, ploughing through Angela's Full Irish.

"Ah sure, we export all our best stuff," Angela replies, not in the sunny tones usually found in TV advertising, but in the mournful style of a woman in a Synge drama who has just heard that four of her sons have been drowned, and the fifth, sixth and seventh are missing. Rising from the table, she cannot conceal her grief.

If they came up with this in Mad Men, we would learn that the mother role was written by a "creative" who was new in the job, having spent too much time working in the theatre on the tragedies of Eugene O'Neill. A few dozen whisky sours over lunch, and soon he'd be bringing a very different type of mother to the table.

WHILE we love these characters that we know so well, we look to the great "creatives" such as Stanley Kubrick to re-imagine the world. Stanley Kubrick's Boxes, the recent documentary by Jon Ronson, gave us a perfect insight into the mind of the artist through a description by a Warner Brothers executive of Kubrick's total inability to grasp the concept of a holiday.

The Warners guy was on a family holiday in Cannes, talking to Kubrick on the phone, telling him that this conversation was going on so long, he might not get to the beach with his children.

The great director just kept talking, now intrigued by this whole "holiday" business -- at the end of which the Warners guy himself was seeing the absurdity of rushing out to build sandcastles, when he could be talking to Stanley Kubrick instead.

Genius. It's just a very heightened form of common sense.

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