Dissolving into the Mist
A ghostly film, sort of
by Molly Templeton
THE ECLIPSE: Directed by Conor McPherson. Screenplay by McPherson and Billy Roche, based on Tales from Rainwater Pond by Roche. Cinematography, Ivan McCollough. Editing, Emer Reynolds. Music, Fionnuala Ní Chiosáin. Starring Ciarán Hinds, Aidan Quinn and Iben Hjejle. Magnolia Pictures, 2010. R. 88 minutes.
The wispy Irish ghost drama The Eclipse is best viewed as a chance to appreciate the often underused talents and unusual faces of two of its stars. Ciarán Hinds has a dour, squared-off face that slips into a frequent look of mild surprise; this suits his role as widower Michael Farr, who’s begun to hear strange noises in his house. It seems his not-yet-dead father-in-law might be turning up in ghostly form. Also with a history with ghosts is pale Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle, from High Fidelity), a novelist who’s come to this small Irish town for the literary festival at which Michael volunteers. Her book, also called The Eclipse, is a ghost story, and as Lena reads a key passage that describes the way seeing a ghost feels, it’s clear that she knows something of what she speaks.
Hjejle has a fluttery prettiness that can turn to steely certainy in a flash. At dinner with a cad of an American popular novelist, Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn), Lena looks down to center herself, then meets Nicholas’ needy gaze with certainty. This dinner is not going to go as he likes. Nicholas, however, can’t take a hint — he and Lena had a brief (and somewhat unbelievable) affair, and he wants to rekindle that — and so we’re subjected to his tiresome, drunken proclamations as often as Lena is. Quinn does his best to give the character some soul, but Nicholas’ self-centeredness is overwritten and unsympathetic.
For Lena and Michael, though, there is sympathy, and a sweetness that develops from the shared experiences they barely talk about. Hjejle and Hinds are an initially unlikely pair, but their delicate connection is the best thing about The Eclipse, which also boasts a few truly unexpected ghost sightings (if only they could have skipped the dissonant piano in the score). Director Conor McPherson, who wrote the screenplay with playwright Billy Roche, weaves his story in a way that’s clearly getting at Michael’s remaining grief about his wife’s death and his uncertainty about how to move along in his life, but the film never reaches the resonance it ought. It stays misty and slight, quick to dissipate, but interesting while lasts.
The Eclipse opens Friday, Aug. 6, at the Bijou.