Adapted from the book of the same name, 'Lost Lives' uses recordings and archival footage to recount a selection of deaths caused by The Troubles. A host of Irish actors narrate passages including the likes of Liam Neeson and Kenneth Branagh.
It is very hard to review something like 'Lost Lives' as in many ways it is scarcely a film. It certainly isn't a documentary as it gets billed, it is more contemplative and more emotive. It is not trying to explain or act as a historical record of The Troubles, instead, it tries to make you feel it. And you will certainly feel it alright, it is a very tough watch and a black cloud of depression followed me for the rest of the day after seeing it.
The book is an account of almost every life lost in conjunction with the conflict in Northern Ireland and contains over 3,500 entries. It is highly regarded, well sought after and the work of four journalists for near a decade. Even hearing about the tome is a sobering reminder of the toll inflicted. On the outset, it is hard to imagine how something like this could conceivably be adapted for the big screen but the genius is in its simplicity. A selected number of the entries are read by actors. This curated list covers a lot of ground from deaths like politically motivated assassinations, ricocheting bullets, accidents, and suicides.
If you were ever hoping to compile a list of things you wish would never happen to you, this would be a good start. After every entry, there is a coda provided by someone that knew the victim and this is what raises it to something really special. Here we really see the human cost in the events. You learn all these little foibles of the people grieving and hear unbelievable profound philosophical truths coming from the most ordinary of people. Grief has a way of focusing the mind and there is plenty to contemplate on.
Bar a few lines at the start there is no explanation of how it all started, no rooting it in time or place. It is certainly a masterstroke as no matter what side of the divide the people are on, they are all presented as people. Many reading this will have their own prejudices or thoughts on the war. Considering that we are still living through the aftermath, it's realise is well-timed.
Over the recording, there is a mix of archival footage and newel filmed material. It is masterfully edited together and there is lots of interesting stuff happening. The footage shot by the filmmakers is really stunning and there is this mix of cities and countryside.The camera swoops by seaside cliffs and historical buildings and hones in on red deer or discarded industrial spindles. It gives it such a strange feeling, it's not dreamlike but something more like the thoughts of the dying. I'm not sure if it was the intent but it ends up being an almost occult experience, like some mad project that Alan Moore sets out on.
Meanwhile, the archive footage shows us immediate aftermaths of violence, interviews, funeral parades and the like. It is never salacious but there is some real bone-chilling stuff, in seeing the aftermath it hits harder than seeing the act itself.
I’m not sure I can even recommend ‘Lost Lives’, it is about as close as you can get to being haunted in real life. But it is an important piece of art and it will be sure to give plenty of people pause for thought. As Westminster is poised to tear up the Good Friday agreement for no reason other than sheer nastiness, it is hugely important that we learn from the mistakes of the past and 'Lost Lives' is a chilling reminder that we can never let something like this happen again.