Clouded Reveries review – ode to otherworldly Irish poet with a scalpel of a pen | Movies


To listen to how writer Doireann Ní Ghríofa describes her creative process is to envision a more attentive, synthesising way of perceiving all those little details that makeup a personal history. Staying close to the writer, Ciara Nic Chormaic’s Irish-language documentary draws an intriguing thread between her life experiences and her literary obsessions.

In addition to Ní Ghríofa’s evocative reading of her works, beautiful turns of phrases emerge from her interviews. A visit to her grandmother’s house brings back memories of conversations about family history; it was then, as a young girl, that Ní Ghríofa came to see the act of storytelling as a form of remembrance that can lend a quiet profundity to the domestic. It is apparent that her time as a medical student at University College Cork was essential to her development as a writer: not only does she liken a novelist’s pen to a surgeon’s scalpel, she also sees cities as living, breathing entities adorned with veins and arteries that pulsate with energy.

In contrast to her works which (in Wordsworth’s words) seek to see into the life of things, the visuals here are sadly unable to capture the aura of the places that have inspired the writer’s oeuvre. The penchant for static shots, for instance, serve only to bluntly illustrate the images in Ní Ghríofa’s poems. When the author, for example, speaks of her knotty effort to translate Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill’s 18th-century poem Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, her devotion is rendered quite literally with pictures of a woman in period garb wandering through a forest. For a documentary that centres on a writer with such an otherworldly point of view, it is a shame that its rudimentary visuals remain so earthbound.

Clouded Reveries is released on 11 November in cinemas.