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Review of Mark O'Connor's Award-winning Film 'Stalker'

By Aideen Kerr

Review of Mark O'Connor's Award-winning Film 'Stalker' Date: March 10, 2014

Mark O’Connor describes his new film ‘Stalker’ as “a reactionary film; it’s social, political and polemic”. This award-winning film is now showing at Movies in Dundrum, Cineworld in Parnell Street, and in EYE and Access Cinema in Galway. It has already swept up awards and nominations including runner up at the 2012 Galway Film Festival, and winner at The Underground Film Festival in September 2013. 'Stalker' was selected for the Killer Film Festival in Boston in October 2013 and has been nominated for many other awards at American film festivals. O’Connor’s previous film credits include ‘King of the Travellers’, and ‘Between the Canals’; the latter of which was praised by Film Ireland as: “The best Irish film in a long time”.

O’Connor directed and co-wrote ‘Stalker’ with actor John Connors, (‘Love/Hate’, ‘King of the Travellers’) who plays the protagonist, Oliver. ‘Stalker’ tells the story of the homeless Oliver, who forms a heart-warming friendship with a young boy, Tommy; Barry Keoghan (‘Love/Hate’, ‘Stay’). The unstable Oliver believes that he has been chosen by God to save Tommy who continually suffers at the hands of his sexually abusive Uncle Rudyard; Peter Coonan (‘Love/Hate’, ‘Between the Canals’), and his drug-addicted mother, Mary Murray (‘Love/Hate’, ‘Adam & Paul’).  

‘Stalker’ forces audiences to face up to important and controversial issues in Irish society; O’Connor portrays his story in such a raw and real form that it resonates with his audience long after they have left the cinema. From the beginning of ‘Stalker’, it quickly becomes clear that this is going to be an experimental and thought-provoking film. In the opening sequence the camera concentrates on Oliver, played with great skill and realism by John Connors. Black and white screen shots quickly colour to blood-red; the influence of European art house cinema is palpable, while the colour imagery throughout subtly forecasts the violence that will unfold in the course of the film. Oliver’s perception of the world has been shaped by the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his uncle. His hallucinations (which include a manifestation of evil in the form of Roman the priest), and his fractured memories keep the audience guessing, and create a narrative that explores new ground between fiction, fact and truth.

O’Connor’s script is a fresh and sharp alternative to much mainstream American cinema; consciously rejecting the typical straightforward formula of superficial slapdash story-telling, and instead deconstructing his audience’s expectations and challenging them to think about these real-life issues. Oliver is empowered with a distinctive voice and view of the world that shapes the background of the whole film. Connors actually slept on the streets of Dublin in preparation for his role; an insight into the drive and dedication of this actor to truly experience what his character has experienced. The sincere, realist and somewhat innocent performances by Connors and Keoghan are contrasted sharply with Coonan’s overplayed caricature of a gay paedophile, who takes pleasure inflicting physical and sexual violence on the other characters.    

The music is aptly provided by Damien Dempsey and is powerfully evocative of the tragedy that many of these characters have been subject to. The rich and beautiful cinematography coupled with Dempsey’s nostalgic music, harps back to an older Dublin and a realist form of cinema that privileges a quest for truth. At minimum ‘Stalker’ has to be commended for exploring homelessness, greed, child abuse, discrimination, government cuts, and unemployment, and for challenging our society’s ever-increasing materialism. After watching ‘Stalker’ I am reminded that many of us accept negative attitudes and issues as a part of society, forgetting that we all have a shared influence and a responsibility to contest what we think is wrong. This film is a must see so check it out now!

 


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