Intermission, written by playwright/director Mark O'Rowe, and directed by first-time director John Crowley, is a large ensemble piece with 11 main characters, 54 overall characters, all connected through the aforementioned John (Cillian Murphy), his beloved Dierdre (Kelly Macdonald), an Irish pub and a common theme. Crowley borrows from Altman, Tarantino and Ritchie the same narrative structure they have mastered, but he injects a unique brand of humor that gives Intermission a character of its own.
Sally (Shirley Henderson) cannot seem to connect with men, or anyone else for that matter, because of a recent traumatic and unsettling incident with her boyfriend. Lehiff (Colin Farrel) is a small-time crook, determined to pull off another job, but needs the help of some friends. Jerry (Colm Meaney) is a pompous, tough cop whose life is changing because he has recently become the subject of a television documentary. Noeleen's (Deirdre O'Kane) husband has taken up with John's ex-Deirdre, which awakens an animalistic sexual desire she never knew she had.
Most of the characters are despicable people, whose lives have been interrupted due to some circumstance, or some mistake. The film resembles religious allegory (loosely) in many ways, as it is not only about people in the midst of an intermission, but they are also all seeking redemption. Some of them will make the right choice and find their peace, while others will continue their pomposity and their judgement will come in the form of an airborne rock, hurled by a cute little 8-year old wearing a red jumper.
The handheld camerawork gives the film an added sense of identity, while Crowley's method of shooting over-the-shoulder dialog scenes adds a sense of intimacy, and helps to highlight the desperation of the characters. In just about every dialog scene, and there are a lot of them, Crowley uses the back of a head or a shoulder that obscures anywhere from a third to a half of the screen. This shows that the characters are not making speeches, but they are sharing some of themselves with another. Ryszard Lenczewski's camerawork takes a bit of getting used to, but it eventually becomes a character in itself, The camera darts around, jerkily (better word), zooms in and zooms out, and seems to respond to the performances and to moments of surprise. This technique gives Intermission a more humanistic touch, as if a naked eye is capturing the events as they happen, rather than a hunk of metal on crane.
The humor can be coarse and crude, and might not appeal to sensitive moviegoers. The comedic shock value sits somewhere between Guy Ritchie and the Farrelly Brothers, with high and low moments. That said, I found it to be extremely effective as a comedy, but the oddities and embarrasingly poor judgement of the characters are what appealed to me the most.
Intermission may not be a classic in the making, nor is the style completely original, but it is great fun nonetheless. The complex and rich characters, the unique framing, and the elaborate screenplay compensate for some thematic weaknesses, and make this a worthwhile and memorable experience.
© Aaron West, 6th June, 2004
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