The scene is Ireland during the First World War. A married Irish woman falls in love with an officer from the British garrison guarding the town. The Irish resent their country’s long occupation by the British and are sympathetic to the Germans. Irish rebels try to use the town as the location to land a shipment of German arms. They are betrayed and the woman is assumed to be the culprit.
Academy Awards 1970: Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actor (Mills for his portrayal of Michael); 1971 Golden Globe Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Mills); National Board of Review Awards 1970: 10 Best Films of the Year; Academy Award Nominations, 1970: Best Actress (Miles); Best Sound; 1971 Golden Globe Awards Nominations: Best Actress (Miles) and Best Supporting Actor (Howard).
Sarah Miles, Robert Mitchum, John Mills, Trevor Howard, Christopher Jones, Leo McKern.
The woman’s husband is a model for a generous and forgiving husband. The local priest is a model for a caring and responsible pastor. This film provides a good introduction to British/Irish relations, post-traumatic stress syndrome (the British officer had been seriously wounded in the trenches on the Western Front), and the viciousness that can infect small, isolated, impoverished towns. The film raises issues of where obligations of loyalty begin and end, the need for compassion and the dangers of mob rule.
SERIOUS. There are several shootings in this film, none particularly graphic. The school teacher and his wife are beaten by the mob. This too is not graphic by today’s standards. The British officer commits suicide, being unable to handle his experiences in the war.
There are two scenes of love making in this movie. The first, between Rose and her husband is almost entirely under covers. Rose, a virgin, is shown to grimace at the first penetration. The lovemaking is not particularly enjoyable for either of them. The second scene shows a much more enjoyable experience. Rose’s breast is visible for a second and you can see the officer hold her breast. There are many shots of non-genital parts of their bodies while they are making love.
Mild profanity is used, such as the word “whore.” There are a number of scenes showing alcohol abuse in the pub run by Rose’s father. There are several scenes in which crowds of townspeople abuse Michael, the village simpleton.
Before watching the movie, review the Helpful Background section and describe its contents to your child, except for the last paragraph, which should wait until after they have seen the film. Immediately after the movie ask and help your child to answer the Quick Discussion Question.
After centuries of struggle, British rule over Ireland was confirmed in 1690. Periodically, the Irish people revolted against the British, finally achieving home rule in 1922. See Learning Guide to “Michael Collins”.
The First World War, 1914 to 1918, involved years of brutal trench warfare. Many Irish were generally sympathetic to the Germans during the First World War because of their hatred for the British.
Soldiers who have been in very bad battle situations, often have flashbacks when something reminds them of their wartime experiences. This is called battle fatigue or post-traumatic stress syndrome.
In Europe, women who consorted with soldiers of an occupying army were punished by having their hair cut very short. This lets anyone who saw the collaborator know what she had done.
One of the ways that the British kept control of Ireland was through a network of Irish informants. This film shows how one of the informants was injured when his own daughter was wrongly accused of the treachery that he committed. The community shown in this film is riven with distrust and self-loathing. The mistreatment of Michael, the village simpleton, shows the community’s self-hatred.
1. See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.
2. Should the British have been in Ireland in the first place if the people didn’t want them there?
3. What happened to the British officer when he mounted the truck?
4. Why did the British officer commit suicide?
5. Why did the Irish want to listen to Beethoven? Was that rational?
6. This film shows the law of unintended consequences. What is that law and how does it play out in this film?
1. Was the schoolmaster right in marrying Rose? Do you think that they stayed together after they left the village?
2. What do you think the British officer felt toward Rose?
Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.
(Be honest; Don’t deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal — stand by your family, friends and country)
1. What was Mr. Ryan’s role in this movie? How did the telephone call that he made come back to haunt him?
2. Was Rose’s affair with the British officer a betrayal of her country?
(Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements)
1. Why did the townspeople treat Michael so badly?
2. What did the fact that this town treated Michael, its simplest and most innocent member, badly say about the mental health of the town?
(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)
1. Who was the most caring man shown in this film?
2. Did Ryan care for his daughter?
This Learning Guide was last updated on December 17, 2009.