Kieran Hickey (1936–93) was one of Ireland’s most sophisticated and versatile ?lm-makers, as accomplished in his production of elegant literary documentaries as he was in his direction of a series of exceptional short ?ction ?lms, literary adaptations and dramas which, for the ?rst time in Irish cinema, explored sexuality, in?delity, and middle-class angst and challenged notions of nationalism, sectarianism and the glori? cation of the past. These ?ne works were produced with his collaborators Pat Duffner and Sean Corcoran at BAC ?lms, alongside an extensive catalogue of commissioned ?lms – travelogues, health & safety and corporate ?lms – which today provide colourful snapshots of Irish society in the 1970s and 80s. “I had the good fortune to co-write with Kieran Hickey. Kieran was intent on bringing to the screen a true picture of Irish society. There is nothing cozy about his ?lms. There is, instead, an honesty and an exactitude, a desire to sweep aside a divisive self-consciousness in favour of a mature exploration of ourselves. His ambition for the work was never thwarted by budget restrictions. Kieran was a private man with strong friendships, ever prepared to get in the ?ght. His deep love of literature and extensive knowledge of cinema was brought to bear in the face of any challenge. All who knew him will recall the steady ?ow of newspaper cuttings gathered on his desk. These he would present with incredulity, sharp wit and a healthy anger. A glance at our national newspapers today tells us there is a great need of his kind.”
In this, his ?rst drama co-written with Philip Davison, Hickey exposed the fear and loathing underlying relations between men and women in Irish society. Here, an encounter between three male surveyors (Niall O Brien, Bosco Hogan and T P McKenna) and an intriguing, independent French photographer (Catherine Schell) at a remote hotel in the idyllic west of Ireland turns sour and matters quickly turn uncivilised.
Criminal Conversation, co-authored by Hickey and Davison, presents two comfortable, middle-class Dublin couples as they get together for a Christmas Eve party which degenerates into a kind of Irish Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? Alcohol causes smug exteriors to slip and reveals unpleasant truths and the terrible emotional emptiness of their lives.
Sunniva O’Flynn, IFI Curator