The Eclipse


The Eclipse

Written by Conor McPherson & Billy Roche

Based on a story by Billy Roche

Directed by Conor McPherson



Ciarán Hinds

Iben Hjejle

Aiden Quinn


Theatrical: Treasure Entertainment, Broadcasting Commission of Ireland & RTE

Video: Magnolia Home Entertainment


Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1

Codec: AVC/MPEG-4

Disc Size: 17.52 GB

Feature Size: 13.89 GB

Bit Rate: 17.99 Mbps

Runtime: 87 minutes

Chapters: 12

Region: All


English DTS-HD MA 5.1


English & Spanish

Extras:The Making of The Eclipse (27.30)

HDNet: A Look at The Eclipse (4:35)


Blu-ray Amaray case. 1 disc

Release Date: June 29, 2010

The Movie: 6
Various tag lines tout this movie as “a ghost story” “a love story” “a love triangle” or “a film about the grief process.”  One gets the impression that the producers and the distributor can’t quite make up their minds.  My counsel is that if you come to The Eclipse expecting horrific or ghastly imagery you will be unsatisfied for all but a couple of minutes.  And if you think you’ll be getting a love story you will be disappointed, unless you feel that grief is merely its final chapter.


The movie, based on a story by Billy Roche (who has a cameo as the Festival MC) is about Michael Farr (Hinds), a woodwork teacher in a sleepy seaside Irish village and father of two.  His wife died only a couple years ago, without whom he still feels lost and unsettled.  Not unlike the Donald Sutherland character in Don’t Look Now, Michael has disturbing visions and portentous premonitions, but he is unclear about their meaning or what they may say about his sanity.  He volunteers at the local Arts Festival as a driver for one of the guest speakers: Lena Morelle (Hjejle) has written books about ghosts and their possible psychological implications.  Michael attempts to engage her expertise to help him understand what might be going on.  Lena seems interested, but their conversations are constantly interrupted, usually at her bidding.


Her most diverting interruption comes in the form of fellow novelist, Nicholas Holden (Quinn).  Holden is charismatic, popular and exceedingly narcissistic.  He and Lena had had a brief – very brief – affair (he is married, she is not) and he wants to rekindle the romance if for no other reason, we imagine, than it will help dispel the boredom he usually finds at such Festivals.  Holden is so bored with himself and so engorged with self-entitlement that he cannot see past his own needs, if we can call them that – he does – to correctly evaluate the needs of others.  Holden is an emotional juggernaut whose alcoholism leads to gross misbehavior at every possible turn.  It would be comical if it weren’t for the damage he causes.

The woman is fascinating in that she functions only as a mirror for the two male protagonists, which is often the way men see women in any case.  She lacks sufficient substance for us to urge one or the other of the men to connect.  Lena is therefore more a part of Michael’s grief process than a likely candidate to replace his wife.


Hinds and Quinn are what gives The Eclipse its energy.  Hinds (whom you may remember as Julius Caesar in BBC’s TV series Rome, and as Captain Wentworth in Persuasion) is so contained he seems he will explode if he doesn’t let out his pain. By contrast, Quinn’s character indulges every opportunity to express himself.  Both Holden and Quinn are scene-stealers.  If it were possible, they should each get an Oscar.

The movie is shot by Ivan McCullough in desaturated, blue-filtered tones where the story is set: in Cobh, County Cork, Ireland.  Cobh is a quiet, magical spot, seemingly untouched by tourism, just what we who have never been there imagine such a place to be like.  Like Brigadoon, Cobh seems stuck in time.


Image: 8/9
Magnolia’s Blu-ray of The Eclipse may have the smallest ratio of feature film space to disc of any high definition media I’ve yet come across.  It is almost an hour and a half and yet takes up only just over half of a single layered disc at a bit rate of a mere 18 Mbps.  Yet somehow, it suffices to do the story and photography justice. Contrast is well controlled with deep blacks.  Close-ups provide sufficient textural detail and wide shots maintain good resolution. There is a little noise here and there in the shadows, of which The Eclipse has an abundance of, but on the whole the image is satisfying and undeserving of complaint.


Audio & Music: 7/8
Despite its alleged ghost story credentials there are few moments where the audio mix offers much more than a generally front directed presentation of normal scale.  The music – often a solo piano - is usually subdued, wistful, atmospheric, balanced tastefully into the mix so that it opens up the stage just enough to keep things interesting.  The dialogue is clear and crisp and correctly shaped. There are knocks at the door, not frightening so much as startling, and thunderclaps that are more reassuring than ominous.


Extras: 3
The half hour making-of feature covers the waterfront, but only superficially with comments from McPherson and the cast principals.  The HDNet segment features Ciarán Hinds who intones soberly.


Recommendation: 7
I’m not really sure what to make of this movie. Certainly Magnolia’s cover art is misleading, for The Eclipse is hardly the kind of movie that its broken mirror suggests. The Eclipse strikes me on the one hand as a savvy exposition about the way men see women and, on the other, a subtle denouement about grief.  Perhaps on second viewing I will find how writer/director Conor McPherson connects these themes into a dramatic whole, but just now they seem disparate.  The performances of Hinds and Quinn as well as its imagery and music, well rendered in Magnolia’s Blu-ray, invite me to revisit it some day. 

Leonard Norwitz
June 27, 2010