Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Field: Film Review

Released 20 December 1990.
Richard Harris gives an outstanding performance in this play-turned-film The Field (1990).

Harris plays Bull McCabe, and Irish farmer, who has worked in the same field for decades. Unfortunately, the field belongs to a widow. McCabe hopes to purchase "his" field when the widow makes the decision to sell.

Supporting cast members include Sean Bean (McCabe's son), Brenda Fricker, (McCabe's wife), John Hurt (McCabe's not-too-bright sidekick), and Tom Berenger (a wealthy Irish-American who wants to buy and develop some real estate in Ireland).

For 107 minutes, I watched Bull McCabe beg, borrow, steal and more in order to get what he really wants.

McCabe explains a number of times and in a number of ways why his late life should unfold in the way he desires. He has his logic.

To avoid overt spoilers, I will remain vague, but if you read any further, the concepts discussed will color your viewing. 

Billed as a drama and set in Ireland, I view this film as a cautionary tale.

For the last ten years, I have been reading zen Buddhist meditations.  The noble truth, "Attachment leads to suffering" echoed in my mind during the entire film.  This was a strong filter for how I viewed Bull McCabe's character.  

Now that I am in midlife, I have done the same thing on a number of occasions: tried to will the events of my life to follow a planned trajectory.   Life doesn't always go as planned.  Failing to meet one's goals isn't always a failure of personal character.

I have observed others become inconsolable when they didn't get into the graduate school of their choice, didn't marry the person they most desired, didn't get the promotion they earned by tireless work for a decade or more, didn't inherit the family business, didn't get their children to reach the milestones planned for them.

I can't say that I am a wise, mature person. However, I have been looking carefully at works of film and literature that depict mature wisdom. I have also been reading more novels with protagonists in late life.   One common late life task is reconciliation between one's desires and one's realities.

Bull McCabe is a person who could have focused more on cultivating an accepting attitude rather than pushing with all his might to make the world bend to his will.

I felt a lot of pain for McCabe in the second half of the film.  (If you want to completely spoil the movie, you can read the plot summary here.)

The Field unfolds like a Greek tragedy.  Instead of keeping to that Western literary tradition, I chose to interpret the film through a Buddhist lens.  Doing so helped me find some positive use for watching a man lose too much of his life work because he tried to hold on to a dream too tightly.


Novels about Older Men Facing Death
Books on Aging and Spiritual Growth

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