In the Name of the Father
By Mike Derderian
As they parted, the young man glanced at the gray-haired man ascending the airplane ramp. He leaned over the glass window trying to transcend over his physical presence with thoughts to hold his father’s hand for one last time before he vanished inside the belly of that plane.
No longer in sight, silence prevailed except for a faint voice that soon was muffled by the roaring engines heading towards the amber horizon. “In the name of the father, a father who has disappeared leaving behind a son with a vacant spirit, why now?” those were the fading words of the young man.
Suddenly questioning the existence of his father—and every father—with all that is happening in a world mired with killings, torture and agony; all because war has baffled the rebel within him.
Finding himself alone, he now has the right to fight unlike some countries whose struggle against occupation is branded as terrorism—his fight is against life.
What is the connection of this short story to the 1993 film directed by Jim Sheridan “In the Name of the Father,” which was based on the autobiographical book “Proved Innocent” by Gerry Conlon.
The movie presented an outcry against injustice, torture and occupation, as Conlon was one of the Guildford four who where unjustly incarcerated for 15 years after being framed for the bombing of a London pub by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on October 5, 1974 that resulted in the killing of five people.
Conlon, Paul Hill, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson, in addition to members of Conlon’s family—including his father Giuseppe Conlon, whom you will be introduced to once you’ve seen the film—were all imprisoned on that account.
The opening shot of the film that begins with Bono and Gavin Friday’s song In the Name of the Father, emphasizes Sheridan’s brilliant approach in synchronizing the pub’s explosion with the moment where the song’s force and chaotic composition picks up.
Which brings us to the whole soundtrack of the film that was packed with great music exquisitely entwined with it’s scenes; especially, in Gerry’s escape from British troops to the sound of Jimi Hendrix’s Vodoo Child; not to mention the final song You Made Me the Thief of your Heart, performed by Sinéad O’Connor.
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis; Emma Thompson; Corin Redgrave; John Lynch; Mark Sheppard; Beatie Edney, and Pete Postlethwaite as Giuseppe Conlon, In the Name of the Father is a worth-watching film for it is inline with the many films that were produced during the nineties with a message to convey.
Its importance lies in a two-dimensional universal theme, one is the human outcry against all acts of cruelty, injustice and occupation; while the second comes within the more personal, yet universal, level of relating to the patriarchal figure in one’s life.
The film’s sequence of events shifts from the complicated climax of Gerry’s indifferent character towards his life and family at the beginning, to the resolution and change stimulated by Giuseppe and the tragedy that follows his incarceration, turning Gerry from a no-good drifter into a freedom fighter.
Shooting some of the interrogation sessions through small outlets in doors, the movie offered a glimpse of the amount of torture Gerry (Day-Lewis) underwent on the hands of British intelligence personnel, headed by a coldhearted Robert Dixon (Corin Redgrave).
In those scenes, the demented duality of a torturer’s life was brought about by an image when some of the interrogating officers were cheerfully carrying a birthday cake, while Gerry was crying in pain. One thing I assure you, the torture images in this film, however, aren’t as inhumane and explicit as the ones we’ve been lately seeing all over the news, about some military perverse acts.
The love-hate relationship between Gerry and his father helped in adding a passionate element, through a father and son bond that ascended into perfection when they shared a single prison cell. And in a dialogue between the father and the son, we realize how life and man’s inner strength are all in the head, when Gerry tells his father that he doesn’t deserve to spend the rest of his life in prison.Giuseppe Conlon, pointing to his head, answers, “All they’ve done was block out the light, they can’t block out the light in here.”
Gerry’s—through the gentle voice of Day-Lewis—added more depth into the narration of the film’s events; especially, in the part when he passionately spoke of his father on a tape recording listened to by Gareth Peirce, a very persistent and justice-orientated lawyer played by Thompson.
Thompson was low in appearance and words at the beginning; however, during the final court scene she manages to set the audience ablaze as she argues how a simple cover-up of the truth took, and wasted, the lives of innocent people.
By the end of the movie, you realize that you not only enjoyed a film about Irish people, but a film about every single person who was ever tortured unjustly under the pretence of protecting a country.