As part of ongoing events to mark the centenary of the death of General Michael Collins, Fine Gael have teamed up with Omniplex Cinemas to show the 1996 biopic Michael Collins at the same time in 19 cinemas across the country.
The Neil Jordan film will receive a special sync’d screening on Tuesday 6th September at 7pm in 19 Omniplex Cinema venues. Tickets are available from today via Eventbrite. The event is part of Fine Gael’s ongoing efforts to celebrate Collins this year, a fitting tribute since the Big Fellow, as an organiser of Physical-force Republicans, always enjoyed a good PR exercise.
The revolutionary who led a guerrilla war against the UK, helped negotiate the creation of the Irish Free State, and led the National Army during the Irish Civil War inspired one of the biggest films of the 90s. Stirring, exciting and debate-sparking, Neil Jordan’s film and Liam Neeson’s famous performance as the main man have endured for decades. Much like the complex historical figure himself, there are many layers to the movie, with lots of interesting details, possible teasers and hidden easter eggs that you might only notice if you’re a serious auteur or, even less insufferably, a Fine Gael member.
If you’re in Young Fine Gael and are allowed to stay up late enough this September to see the movie yourself for the first time, keep your eyes peeled, because there are more connections between Collins and the political party that he is definitely, correctly and without agenda associated with, than you might have realised. This Irish cinematic classic really rewards the fans by giving them a shout out through some amazing cinematic techniques and sick references. Here are 5 wild Easter Eggs about Fine Gael in Michael Collins that you may have missed.
Colour Theory is one of the essential tools in any filmmaker’s arsenal; a way of using the emotions and psychological reactions that viewers have in response to certain colours, as a way of directing their reaction to your film.
Many scenes in Michael Collins use a blue tint. While any reddit-using hack might tell you that this monochromatic effect is used to give these scenes a historical feel and sombre weight, their use is in fact more artful.
The blue hue over scenes of Collins delivering speeches and fighting on the streets of Dublin is actually foreshadowing the formation of Fine Gael, for whom the colour has particularly special meaning. In 1933, the ‘Blueshirt’ National Guard led by Eoin O’Duffy were declared an illegal organisation, having been seen to have defied a ban on a planned march to commemorate Collins and other revolutionary leaders. Young Fine Gaelers may not be too familiar with the National Guard, but they were kind of like the Guardians of the Galaxy of the day; a crew of misfits who can’t stay out of trouble, headed by a religious conservative. In response to the ban, they merged with Cumann na nGaedheal and the National Centre Party to form a new political party; Fine Gael, placing O’Duffy as their first leader. Layering images of Collins and co behind this coloured filter is a cool subliminal nod to the blue-loving lads and whatever it was they stood for!
Bejaysus and begorrah, what is it about bad Irish accents in movies? Hollywood just can’t seem to get them right at all at all. Julia Roberts’ dodgy turn as Collins’ love Kitty Kiernan has long been the subject of slagging. But did you know that this bad Irish accent actually has a secret meaning? And not just for Irish content writers looking for cheap SEO hits on St. Patrick’s Day?
As Fine Gael leader and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has taught us, Michael Collins greatest achievement was giving us the Irish State, enabling Irish people to shape their own destiny. Commemorating Collins, Leo points out that Irish people used to be poor (bad) and had to emigrate, but that we’re in a very different place now. For thousands of Irish people this is literally true, as they take continue to take control of their own destiny and move away from Ireland to a different place entirely. Like Berlin, for example…or America? Where Julia Roberts is from? See, there’s more going on with her cringe accent than meets the ear.
Julia’s awkward voice may stick out among the likes of Liam Neeson and Stephen Rea, but her slipping in and out of an American voice in fact is symbolic of the special connection between Ireland and the United States, bolstered through years of movement by Irish people across the Atlantic for various unpreventable reasons. Thanks to years of Fine Gael policy, Irish people to this day are empowered to up sticks and head abroad, often to the US, and the Pretty Woman’s words tie those threads together nicely in a neat act of symbolism. It’s just like her appearance in Ocean’s 12 people, it’s meta.
It might seem like this is a bad thing, mass emigration that no generation can escape, but as Leo tells us about Collins, it takes courage to make compromises. Irish people might go to America, but we get something even better in return: American multinationals. As Julia Robert’s accent demonstrates, everything is peaks and valleys.
Framing a Narrative
As Collins himself would tell you; big things happen when you’re caught in the cross hairs. In visual storytelling, a centre-framed shot quite naturally draws the eye into the middle – when a viewer clearly sees a person or object framed centrally on the screen, the brain instantly processes them as important information. Filmmakers use the position of characters all the time to communicate info to the audience. In an argument, they might shoot the weaker, less convincing, or less sympathetic character to be sitting down, while the stronger or more dominant character stands. If you’re shooting a confident character entering a scene, you don’t want to show them walking into frame from the side or wandering over from the background – you show them front and centre, communicating that all eyes should be on them. There is a lot of hidden meaning that you can convey by where you put your camera and where you put your characters, and Michael Collins is no different.
Consider this scene of Collins training up his flying columns. They’re ill-disciplined, ignorant boys, thick farmers who must become civilised. They need somebody to be the adult in the room. Sound like any party we know? Planting Liam Neeson smack dab in the middle of the scene, true blue Fine Gael fans might notice this as a nod to the benefits of centrist policy. Notice how it zooms right in on Collins right after he outlines the importance of responsible accounting.
The visual language of Michael Collins shows how dangerous and unprofitable it is to stray from the centre where we belong. Some might say that the framing of Collins in this scene is generally more in the centre-right if you really look at it, but they are wrong and even if they were correct, it wouldn’t be important and it wouldn’t mean anything.
Some might accuse Fine Gael of dubious doublethink in squaring their idealisation of Gen. Michael Collins with their both-sides, RIC commemorating, “would it really be SO bad if we were in the Commonwealth at the very least” point-of-view. But if you really toe the party line, you’ll understand how to properly compartmentalise any violence that you might see in this film. Using the secret sense of superiority that comes naturally to all members, you’ll put those naysayers pointing out scenes of Collins training people to use guns and kill people in their place. “It’s just a movie” you’ll tell them, technically accurate. You understand what’s really going on, thanks to a hint from Mick himself.
Watch that scene of him training those yobbos above again. What does he say? “You’ll be organised in Flying Columns”. Columns! Like any great Fine Gael leader, Collins knows the benefit of getting other people to do your fighting for you in columns, whether it’s in the Irish Times, the Irish Examiner, the Irish Independent or occasionally, the Business Post. That’s where the real work is done, whether it’s briefing that the housing crisis isn’t that big of a deal Sinn Féin would be no better anyway, or briefing that the health crisis isn’t that big of a deal and Sinn Féin would be no better anyway.
It’s a subtle allusion, but an effective one. It’s how you seize control. While Mick may have preferred bullets, methinks he would approve of the way that David McWilliams can use a well-worded bon mot to leave a man in stitches.
*it’s not two Ls, it’s two Is, like Roman numerals like two, just bear with us.
As we see in the film, everything was going great for Collins until those ruinous republicans went and ruined everything by starting a Civil War. The conflict over the Anglo-Irish Treaty tore Ireland apart, setting brother against brother, father against son, bank of mum and dad against mom-and-pop landlord. The fighting led to the devastating death of Anti-Treaty Harry Boland while Collins’ Pro-Treaty forces fight in the Battle of Dublin. A bereft Collins journeys to West Cork, where de Valera is in hiding, to mediate peace, putting in motion the shocking events of the movie’s climax. No spoilers if you haven’t seen the movie, but let’s just say that the ending has HUGE implications for the MCU (Michael Collins’ undertaker).
The film closes on a quote from Eamon De Valera that’s pretty eyebrow raising if you ask us. Dev says, “It is my considered opinion that in the fullness of time, history will record the greatness of Michael Collins, and it will be recorded at my expense”. It’s an interesting Easter Egg in two ways. First of all, Fine Gael have certainly done their part to record the greatness of Michael Collins, positioning him as a foundational and symbolic figure of a party that did not exist until 11 years after his death, a party that thankfully, probably and certainly not currently will ever have to deal with any failures being recorded at their expense.
Plus, um, sequel hook much? We never got to see the epic throwdown between Dev and Mick, and this is such an amazing post-Collins sequence to leave us wanting more. Come on Neil Jordan, it’s time to finally follow up and give the fans what they want! If Marvel fans got to see the epicness of the Avengers assembling post-Snap to take on Thanos, and DCEU fans got to see Superman come back despite Henry Cavill’s clearly incompatible schedule, then Fine Gael should get their own shot at a bunch of nerds being pandered to in a power fantasy that aligns them with a heroic figure too!
Setting up an awesome follow up is one of the coolest parts of Michael Collins, and just because it hasn’t happened yet and has no good reason to happen, does not set this article apart from any other listicle on the internet, nor is it any more spurious and asinine than anything you might read from the Fine Gael communications department.
Did you spot any other Easter Eggs in Michael Collins? Drop them in the comments below!