What relief. After Hans Zimmer's oppressing soundtrack to The Dark Knight Rises, which renders some of the dialogue inaudible, comes this break from it all. Pummelled by the sound of cars, phones, the click of the iPod wheel, people, and music (typing music, I realised that I was listening to an album and switched it off only to be annoyed by a lawnmower), the sound of nature, and silence, feels like a distant memory. Crap, I sound like an old man.
Berlin-based Eoghan (Mac Giolla Bhride, who also co-wrote the script) is a sound recordist who is returning to Ireland for the first time in fifteen years, leaving behind his German girlfriend. How he breaks this to her, and how she takes it, remain unknown because a passing train drowns out his voice. A case in point for leaving then as he's on the lookout for an area free of man-made sound. This proves to be harder than first thought and his quest brings him to North West Ireland and into contact with the locals, who share what history of the area they have. This ignites memories in Eoghan too.
With his long shots of dreamy landscapes set to the occasional voiceover, Pat Collins puts himself in the forefront for the 'Irish Terrence Malick' award, if there is such a thing. There should be. But this is Malick stripped down, shorn of a narrative that might get in the way of the pretty scenery. It's loose, almost a quasi-documentary style. But these are elements that work in its favour.
Infuriating for some but mysterious for others, Collins is stingy on Eoghan's details: it's obvious he is carrying around some hefty emotional weight - maybe a regret, a pain - it's in his fallen eyes and slumped shoulders and the way he stares at the table instead of his host when invited to dinner. Silence is interspersed with archive footage of the twenties and thirties Ireland, of island men in suits, smoking cigarettes outside shops, which hints at a purity missing from Eoghan's life. This is all guesswork on my part, as the director doesn't make with the info.
Slow, and by the end of the lean eighty-four minutes I began to feel a yearning for interaction again, but for the most part old man Burke enjoyed it.