Marrying contemporary landscapes in Connemara and Co Kerry with footage from 1920s and 30s Ireland, Dreamtime, Revisited is like a long Imagist poem, recited by its subject, the philosopher John Moriarty.
With no preamble as such, the 76-minute film ushers us into the life of Kerry philosopher, who was born in 1938 and died in 2007. The film is described in a programme note as “a reflective investigation into processes of illustration and association.” This reviewer certainly saw no evidence of - or tangible results from - any such investigation.
But he did hear the generous amounts of audio from John Moriarty, discoursing on Irish myth and recording the strange beguiling symbolism he saw in things. John Moriarty was a seer, who discerned strange correspondences in a travelling woman’s bright red scarf stuck on a fence, or the apparition of a horse in his doorway.
Throughout the film, we hear the philosopher reading from books like his vast autobiography, Nostos, or the shorter work, Invoking Ireland. The relative lack of footage of the man himself in this film is unexpected, but photographs of John and family members through the years are captivating.
His birthplace in Kerry and his cottage in Connemara are beautifully evoked in a film which avoids the usual realist flourishes. Filming was done at Ballynahinch House Hotel where Moriarty once worked, and there are short contributions from his talkative brother and niece and sisters.
Dreamtime, Revisited is not a documentary that ties up neat ends. There are no talking heads, just people with memories of the man talking simply, hesitating before Moriarty's innate mystery. Sometimes these contributors are mysterious too in their brief pronouncements, in their very caution and resistance to too much gab.
Familiarity with the writings of John Moriarty would certainly help anyone unfamiliar in advance of seeing the film. Or even a replay of the RTÉ One Would You Believe programme, filmed when he was alive and well in his adopted Connemara.
The music of Peadar Ó Riada, Martin Hayes and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, is most sympathetic. If this film leads cinema-goers to his writings, it’s all to the good, surely.
Opens on Friday October 12 at the IFI, Eustace Street, Dublin 2 and at selected cinemas. There will be a post-screening Q & A with the film's two directors, Julius Ziz and Donal Ó Céilleachair, after the 6.20pm screening on Friday October 12.