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…


  • Pete Baker

    Actually, Mick, my objection to the ‘redemption’ at the end was that, primarily because of the direction and James Nesbitt’s performance, it didn’t come across as messy enough.

    And not as messy as, I believe, Liam Neeson, in particular, intended his performance to indicate.

  • ArchiePurple

    Perhaps the ArtyFarties of TV and Film should talk to Sinn Fein/IRA about portraying some of their killers on screen, rather than just asking the terrorists to provide transport and their thugs in the black leather jacket to be the security staff for them when they’re filming.

    Hibbert should speak to our 2 I/C [both in the IRA and at Stormont] Marty about the portrayal of the IRA murder of Patsy Gillespie who was tied to the seat of his car by one of our Deputy Dog’s near relatives. But willie speak to him? He should!

  • granni trixie

    I thought this drama made a better attempt than most to tune into complex experiences. For example although blame for the murder is not in dispute,our understanding of its impact on the world of a family member is advanced with the twist re the young brother being failed by adults (most notably his mother).

    I hate anything which implies a duty on victims of the troubles to be ‘reconciled’ or’forgive’ – I believe that legitimacy to be as mad as hell is healthier. As an ordinary person Im mad as hell at what has been done here – and I havent suffered as many have.

    However as a separate matter, I also think it is right to try to act decently to those you believe have done the harm.Or as Corrymeela would have it – to form new kinds of relationships.

  • barnshee

    fabuluous performancefrom particularly neeson ( and nesbitt)