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Looking for a Goldfish: The Loss and Gain of the Irish Representation Essay

Introduction: In a Chase for a Moment to Remember

Mirroring the everyday reality has always been an uneasy task, and the invention of cinema has made the creative process a tad easier. However, even in movies, one of the most graphic ways to portray everyday reality and convey certain ideas to the public, the messages can get quite mixed up on their way to the audience.

One of the most memorable movies about Irish people has offered a perfect interpretation of the modern controversy concerning homosexuality and the related issues, yet has completely failed to develop any believable settings for a typical Irish place.

Despite the fact that Goldfish Memory is flawed in a very basic way, it still offers a topical issue to discuss and approaches it in a very innovative and cautious way, making it obvious that the movie portrayed the Irish life as claustrophobic urban one instead of open rural life, while the major gain concerned mostly the innovative ways in which Ireland was represented, thus, sending the audience a wrong message about the country.

However, it is necessary to keep in mind that McLoone’s opinion might be not the only possible statement concerning the movie settings. Perhaps, once some more details of the movie are considered, the latter will show its true colors, and the implications which Gill was trying to convey with the help of the specific messages in the movie were, indeed, successful.

Once analyzing carefully the settings and the ideas which the movie is trying to get across, one can possibly suggest the proper interpretation of the settings and make sure whether McLoone was correct in his statement of the movie’s settings and the purposelessness of the latter.

Watching Controversial Issues Cross: Political or Social Issues?

Goldfish Memory is one of those movies that never speak about one and the same issue; swinging from topic to topic, it touches upon a number of things, which makes the movie actually somewhat engaging.

The first and the foremost, the movie is completely about the controversy of homosexuality, the social isolation which homosexuals are often trapped in, the complexities in communication with the opposite sex, the difficulties in personal life, etc., which sets the movie in a rather grim mood – with the only exception that the characters are rather cheerful, with little concern about their being different from everyone else and the overall lightheartedness of the movie.

While telling about relationships and the way these relationships develop, the film, however takes the audience to where all events are supposed to take place, i.e., Ireland; hence are the problems, since the Ireland in Goldfish Memory is not actually the everyday Ireland which is a part of our sad reality.

Thus, it is obvious that the movie offers a lot of food for thoughts, not only concerning the ideas which it misses, but also for the ones which the film actually manages to pin down in a rather impressive manner. On top of that, there are a lot of issues crossing in the movie.

There are points in the movie when one might think there are too many issues to consider. Talking about the relationships between homosexuals, it then switches to the conflict between the homosexuals and the society; finally, the movie offers the audience to consider key problems of the Irish society in the light of the above-mentioned homosexual issues and the relationships crisis.

Altogether, the problems considered in the movie make it look much like a mess of really good concepts. Therefore, Goldfish Memory makes its way in the middle between a really bad movie with some grain of reasonable argument and original approach in it, and a so-so Indie movie with a couple of worthy ideas and their poor implementation.

Nevertheless, the issues which manage to factor in seem extremely engaging, which means that Goldfish Memory is worth seeing.

When the World Is Falling Apart: The Key Loss

No matter how weird that might sound, Goldfish Memory fails not because of a certain detail which the director got wrong, or because one of the actors failed to deliver a better performance; the movie’s key fault concerns some of the basic facts about the country in which the plot is taking place.

Showing a movie which was supposed to nail down not only the romance details, but also some of the most topical issues of the Irish life, the movie disregarded such an important aspect as settings, thus, failing to deliver basic trustworthiness.

Therefore, it seems that there is one basic problem with the way in which the Irish world is portrayed. Being mostly agricultural and, therefore, having mostly rural scenery as a background for the plot to unfold, Ireland should have been viewed as a rural place, whereas in the movie, the country is depicted as a place with mostly urban backdrop.

While the scenes with the urban flair and urban scenery could have worked as a contrast to the ones which portray a typical rural setting, the scenery in the movie does not offer anything substantial for the imagination, since it is focused on the city life. According to what McLoone says, “Instead of spacious outdoor vistas, Goldfish Memory offers spacious interiors, filled with natural light.

The film’s characters, including students and bartenders, live in modern spaces in hip areas of town” (McLoone, 14). No matter how bitter it can sound, the movie distorts the typical Irish settings, taking them to the most disproportionate level.

The Way Movie Portrays It: In the Twists of the Plot

As a matter of fact, the half-baked scenery in Goldfish Memory has had its impact on the actors and the plot. While the characters of the movie are well-rounded and three-dimensional, they seem to be chewing the scenery in the movie, since the latter does not offer sufficient foil for them to develop.

Indeed, as Wyndham explains, the given kind of movies are not supposed to represent Ireland to the rest of the world, for the latter can easily have a perverted idea of Irish culture: “These films celebrate and even glorify a certain kind of urban style, one that revels in the signifiers of contemporary global youth culture and is populated by “beautiful people” (Wyndham 154).

Therefore, it can be considered that, mainly because of the issue with the settings, the movie loses its touch with the traditional Irish values, shifting into the sphere of the international ideas. The latte, doubtlessly, contributes to shaping a wrong idea of Ireland in the eyes of the foreign audience.

As Wyndham clarifies, the movie characters “are Irish, but they epitomize a kind of transglobal ‘cool’” (Wyndham 154). Hence comes the concern raised by McLoone – the movie does not offer an honest portrayal of Ireland and the Irish people, making both generic and taking all the challenge out of the theme of the movie.

Through the Mirror and What Audience Saw There: The Scenery

However, even with his harsh and critical review of the movie, McLoone still offers an alternative interpretation of why the movie director changed the Irish scenery so much; as a matter of fact, he explanation provided by McLoone covers a lot of white spots and even contributes to a better understanding of the movie:

“The spaces being looked at-being discovered and indulged-are both “queer” spaces and feminine spaces or they are the formerly hetero-masculine spaces of discursive Dublin that are now being opened up to the previously disguised and dispossessed” (McLoone).

A unique interpretation of the purpose of the movie scenery, the given idea actually makes a lot of sense. Indeed, tying the uncomfortable topic with an uncomfortably unusual setting, one will be able to get the specific atmosphere of oddness which the leading characters must have felt throughout their entire lives.

In the given context the annoyingly unsuitable urban stylistic choices which the movie director has made start falling into their places. It seems that the whole movie can be summarized with one single question asked by Isolde: “How do we know each other?” (Goldfish Memory), and the settings add to the awkward feeing considerably with their cheerful and yet somewhat cold urban flair.

Therefore, it can actually be suggested that the setting in the movie does add to the atmosphere and serve as the foil for the characters and the events. While McLoone focuses on the inconsistencies which the setting presumably has and the difference between real Ireland and the fake cartoonish Ireland which Gill is trying to portray, there can be more to the specific settings than meets the eye.

It seems impossible that Gill could be making a movie without actually knowing the specifics of the characters and their lifestyle (McDougall).

Anyway, at the first glance, the urban settings do not play to the film’s advantage. While the setting adds to the overall cheerful tone and helps to handle the controversial issue in an easier way, it still turns the whole perception of Ireland upside down, which is an obvious flaw.

The Questionable Gain: What Goes on Since 1916

Taking into account the above-mentioned, one can hardly believe that there actually are some aspects which make the movie look good and even make it worth watching; however, there are, and, as a matter of fact, they are even stronger than the negative ones.

To start with, Walsh did manage to represent the Irish youth in the most graphic and, perhaps, true manner possible.

One could argue, though, that the basic features of youth as they are portrayed in movies are practically all the same no matter the prospects of what country they are shot from; however, in the given case, one can claim that the author has stayed true to the source material and managed to see that certain something in the youngsters of the Irish Republic.

The Characters and Their Relationships

As it has been mentioned above, the settings can possibly set the mood for the movie instead of offering an account of its geographical location. It can also be suggested that the choice of the landscape was predetermined by the characters of the movie.

If the settings were any different from the traditional it-can-be-anywhere background, the characters would have faded into the background, which was quite undesirable, since the focus on the characters was the movie’s key purpose. As McLoone emphasizes,

The framing device in the mise-en-scene makes the characters’ relationship to the landscape self-conscious. When Clara and Isolde pause in the gallery, the camera positions them in the foreground, with a framed picture of a rural area under construction in the near background. (McLoone)

Once making the scene look any tad brighter and the elements of the backdrop any more distinct, the movie director would have shifted the focus from the characters to what is going on in the background, which would have made the movie look completely different.

Moreover, the given change would have made the characters less meaningful. Despite the fact that at present, it seems that the leading cast is desperately chewing the scenery, it would have looked much worse once the backdrop would have been given the maximum attention.

Reading between the Lines: Concerning Ireland

It can be considered, though, that the above-mentioned settings have been chosen for a reason and that the movie director has implied a specific meaning into the idea of a completely commonplace sunny Dublin. Indeed, with a film of such rank, the issue of settings cannot be possibly overlooked by the director; neither can it be a mere slip of the scriptwriter’s pen.

Perhaps, what McLoone considers a serious flaw of Goldfish Memories can be considered a specific viewpoint of the movie director, or even an attempt to make the cosmopolitan issues prevail the national ones. Moreover, the idea of cosmopolitanism as the effect of globalization could have been a deliberate attempt at drawing attention to the topical issues in the Irish society.

As Gillespie put it, “I do not take these features as distortions of contemporary urban middle-class Irish life. Quite the contrary, they seem to capture it quite well, a circumstance that highlights an integral element of the problem of identity” (76).

Therefore, it seems that McLoone’s position can also be considered rather one-sided. While the absence of the typical Irish settings in the movie can be considered as a flaw, it should be also viewed as an attempt to convey a specific message.

As a resident of Ireland, Gill should know what the place looks like and, therefore, make the movie settings remind of the Irish ones. Turning these settings into something that seems almost surreal for Ireland, gill must have implied a specific message, and it is the task of the spectators to guess what this message is.

Looking at the settings of the movie from a different perspective, one can suggest that there is a specific hidden message conveyed with the help of the urban atmosphere. Indeed, it hardly seems possible that a movie was based on such a huge misunderstanding.

Therefore, it can be considered that there are certain issues implied in the “wrong” settings. Among the most obvious choices for the settings interpretation, the idea of new Irish generation and its new problems can be considered.

As Lardon explains, the key idea behind the settings might be the fact that the place becomes completely bland and that the key plot points “are set in the hitherto cinematically invisible affluent, guiltless Dublin” (Lardon 220), the city “inhabited by nonchalant, prosperous young Irish urbanites” (Lardon 220).. Thus, the audience can relate to the characters easier and get more invested into the movie.

Righting the Wrongs: There is Still something Left to Hope for

Staying true to the source material – the Irish settings in the given case – is one of the key responsibilities of a movie director; there can be no possible doubt about that. However, once the movie is out of its proportions and the reality has been distorted to the nth degree, it is quite peculiar to analyze the director’s choices.

After all, there might be some rhyme and reason to the surprisingly welcoming tones of the movie and joyful colors. According to McLoone, “highly stylized Dublin that was shot originally on digital video and then considerably enhanced through postproduction computer imaging” (McLoone) is what makes the movie so unrealistic and, thus, misrepresents the Irish atmosphere. Following McLoone’s train of thoughts,

This postproduction process suffuses the final film with enhanced colors-oranges, soft blues, and warm greens. This creates an almost subliminal sense of well-being, a visual “feel good” factor that makes the city of Dublin appear uncharacteristically bright and attractive. (McLoone)

Because of the excessive use of colors and the abuse of bright tones, the movie director made it look unrealistic, as if carved from a cartoony virtual reality and placed in the real world.

Conclusion: Watching Memories Slowly Fade Away

Therefore, despite the fact that Goldfish Memories does offer certain generalizations and cannot be considered a precise representation of reality, it is still clear that Walsh offers a couple of important issues for the Ireland to consider.

Likewise, the representation of the present-day Ireland and its inhabitants cannot be considered fully accurate. On the surface, the movie focuses on the relationships between the confused young people and tells about their life, and does so in a romantic-comedy manner.

If looking a bit deeper, however, one is likely to discover that the film can be viewed as an allegory for the modern Irish society, with its uncertainty and doubts, slowly disintegrating into mess. Hence, the movie can also be viewed as an attempt to portray and even solve the social conflict which is going on in Ireland at the moment.

Hence the issues of loss and gain can be derived. On the one hand, the movie obviously makes the audience dive deeper into the current Irish conflict. Moreover, the film challenges the viewers to take the issue to an even higher level, asking them whether building relationships in the modern world has become a problem. Finally, the movie raises the issue of trust, which is also essential for the modern public.

The sincerity which the movie approaches to the controversial issues with is truly a gain and is definitely worth appreciation. When it comes to describing the elements of the Irish reality, the movie obviously loses, though, and the above-mentioned fact should be considered a major flaw.

Though compelling and thought-provoking, Goldfish Memories does not stay true to the realities of the Irish less-than-urban lifestyle, which sets the movie several steps back in the impression it is trying to make.

Works Cited

Gillespie, Michael Patrick. The Myths of an Irish Cinema: Approaching Irish-Themed Films. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. 2008. Print.

Goldfish Memories. Dir. Elizabeth Gill. Perf. Sean Campion, Fiona O’Shaughnessy and Fiona Glasscott. Wolfe Releasing, 2003. Film.

McLoone, Martin. “Cinema, City and Imaginative Space: “Hip Hedonism” and Recent Irish Cinema.” 2007. Microsoft Word File.

McDougall, Heather. Genre and Cinema: Ireland and Transnationalism. PDF file. n.d.

Wyndham, Andrew Higgins. Re-Imagining Ireland. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press. 2006. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Looking for a Goldfish: The Loss and Gain of the Irish Representation." August 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/looking-for-a-goldfish-the-loss-and-gain-of-the-irish-representation/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Looking for a Goldfish: The Loss and Gain of the Irish Representation'. 7 August.

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