Irish film director Neil Jordan’s new movie about a quirky 1970s quest for personal identity against a background of violence, “Breakfast on Pluto,” stands in contrast to the new, thriving Ireland.
It’s enough to make Jordan feel nostalgic.
“Ireland is turning into Norway,” says Jordan, sardonically likening the rising affluence and dwindling political tensions at home to what he views as a bland Scandinavian backwater.
“The country I grew up in hadn’t changed since the 19th century. It definitely hadn’t changed since James Joyce wrote ’Dubliners,’ Jordan told Reuters in a recent interview.
“Now it has transformed totally.”
Jordan says he feels like a stranger in the booming “Celtic Tiger” economy and hardly knows what to make of the cultural landscape with the fading of the centuries old “troubles” now that the Irish Republican Army has scrapped its weapons.
“You’ve got all these ancient tribal conflicts finally put to rest,” Jordan said. “Everybody’s employable. Everybody’s got jobs. And what then?
“I suppose you need a kind of satirist like Tom Wolfe when he wrote ’The Bonfire of the Vanities’ to make sense of contemporary Ireland,” he said. “I’m not sure there are any such voices at the moment.”
One of the most intriguing auteurs on the Irish scene in the last two decades, Jordan has examined the issue of terrorism and rebellion in his first film, “Angel” (1982), “The Crying Game” (1992), “Michael Collins” (1996) and again in his new movie.
Dangerous times“Breakfast on Pluto,” the centerpiece of the ongoing New York Film Festival, is a black comic fairy tale that follows the journey of an abandoned Irish child who grows up to be a transvestite and journeys to London in the mid-1970s in search of his lost mother and a life of his own.
Patrick “Kitten” Braden, played by rising Irish star Cillian Murphy, is open, naive and unafraid to confront the dangerous realities that bombard him and his world.
That is what drew Jordan to adapt the novel by compatriot Patrick McCabe, despite superficial similarities to “The Crying Game,” a thriller which won Jordan an Oscar for best screenplay and involved the IRA and a transvestite in a central role.
“I was really trepidatious, if that’s a word, about addressing an issue like that again. Then I thought the character was so on the side of the angels that there can be no doubt where the heart of the film stands.
“He’s the only character able to speak clearly, unequivocally and kind of bravely on all the issues. Incredibly brave and impossibly naive at the same time. I liked that about it, clear about the issues.”
While Jordan may miss some of the Ireland he knew best, he says the decommissioning of the IRA is extraordinary.
“It is an extraordinary event, where a fearsome army, which it was, willingly disbanded itself,” he said. “Whatever comes out of it, I don’t know. I don’t quite trust a lot to do with it, but it is an extraordinary thing.”
‘Strangely happy’Jordan said Irish writers will have to shift gears.
“It is so weird, to have been writing and working out in your brain what you feel about this fight full of conflict and paradox. It is so weird to see it so different. I don’t know what to say. Maybe I’m not a part of it.
“Conflict and badness are easier to write about than goodness,” he said. “I think it’s both confusing, soporific and strangely happy.”
The filmmaker, who has written four novels and made 15 movies, said “rampant capitalism” had transformed the country.
“Ireland has changed so much. You know what changed things quicker than anything is rampant capitalism,” he said. “Give it about two years and it will transform a country inside out.
“Let money flow, and bam, suddenly ‘I’m talkin’ on my mobile phone to my third wife,”’ he said with a U.S. western twang. “That sort of thing.”
Jordan, who plans another novel after last year’s publication of “Shade,” said he thinks he might concentrate more on making movies and writing directly for the screen.
The 55-year-old Jordan even admitted he had tried his hand at capturing the new Ireland but was not sure he would go forward with the project.
“I’ve written a script but I think it’d be too savage and I don’t think I’d be able to live there anymore and I do like living there, you know?”