On five minutes of heaven (2)

Erm, I have to admit to getting a little jaded with Northern Irish political dramas. The growing distance between the way today’s population live their lives out and what passed for normal life twenty or thirty years ago makes the past an even stranger place than it was at the time. Competing claims over the defining narrative for that past also make things more complicated. But Five Minutes of Heaven is based on a real life experience of two men… The director Guy Hibbert talking to the Independent:

“I first started out thinking this would be about truth and reconciliation and all those rather cliched thoughts. I had a quite a simplistic view, I suppose, although I had done Omagh. But I learned through the process that it’s a lot more complicated than those awful simplistic words like ‘closure’ and ‘forgiveness’. It’s incredibly tough.”

It was inspired by the Facing the Truth series from three years ago, which, as I noted at the time: “There were no unreconciled victims. And for that matter, no unreconcilable killers.” The face offs rang a little hollow too, in the sense that no one was asked to pair off with an individual who had killed their loved one. To be fair, the BBC was in no position to offer anything that would allow the unreconciled any genuine form of reconciliation…

Last night’s drama (though this is only clear from the press coverage) fictionalised a meeting of two real people who have never actually met, and likely never will. In doing so it took risks and liberties with the truth. And, I suspect, it got a lot closer to that truth than some of the more prosaic and deliberative attempts of the recent past. Or indeed, suggested ways of officially dealing with the past in the future

Even the standard media choice of Protestant killer and Catholic victim, was subverted by some powerfully restrained acting from Neeson.

For me too it underlined the very raw unapproachability of much of that traumatic past… There is a reason why many old soldiers (of whatever army and whatever conflict) often carry their dirtiest war secrets to the grave… Governments, however well intentioned, should be wary of trying to engineer the perception that they might be persuaded not… Or, despite Pete’s objection to the messy ‘redemption’, at the end that victims should simply ‘get over it’, for the sake of the rest of us…

For too many the past remains a cyclical nightmare that cannot be lived down through a television production, or the catharsis of the therapy group…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty