Perennial Light Featured, Reviews Film Threat
Feb 12, 2024
Perennial Light is a wonder of silent film, a lyrical tone poem that only the Irish could create. Interspersing filmed actions with brief penciled animations accompanied by varied genres of folkish music, this film seeks to tell us a deeply personal and intimate story wordlessly. Focusing on two young people who grow up in an Irish coastal town, Perennial Light illustrates a beautiful cinematic tale of what should have been an enduring friendship.
Certainly, we are privy to intimate moments of conversation between this young lad and lass. However, we don’t hear a moment of their dialogue. Instead, we simply are treated to various folk instruments as the visuals take us on a ride through our protagonist’s memory. From what I can tell, the filmmaker, Colin Hickey, is reviving a variant of silent film. The film is entirely aural and visual but for the lack of the human voice. It’s a fascinating cinema experiment. You hear all the honks of boats, the jingle of wind chimes, the various sounds of nature. You do not hear a single, solitary word from any of the actors. It’s as if Hickey was assaying to create a film that entirely tells its story through the actions of its actors.
This has always been the thing about film. The silent films of the dawn of cinema succeeded because the stories were entirely understood through the actions of the characters on screen. The real question I’m building up to here is how successful Colin Hickey is in expressing his story over the course of the hour and 20 minutes it unfolds.
“…intimate moments of conversation between this young lad and lass. However, we don’t hear…their dialogue.”
For me, and specifically me, Perennial Light is successful at putting across a story of deep emotions from a space of loss. As I may have mentioned in my review of The Banshees of Inisherin, no one commits to depressing stories in a more beautiful way than the Irish. As a culture, the Irish seem to understand loss on a deep and poetic level. Perhaps this is due to the way England has held on to Northern Ireland from the time of the Tudors. Perhaps this is due to the various invasions from the Spanish down. The Irish know how to pull authentic heartstrings of despair better and more trenchantly than anyone else.
As I watched this young man struggle with the loss at the heart of the film, I was struck by the ennui, the natural light, and the long shadows of this particular port town in Ireland. I’ve no idea what town this was, and it hardly matters. It was simply so resonant to his deep and sorrowful loss. It is so beautiful in its depiction of a mournful daily ritual.
Colin Hickey has lensed, written, and directed a sumptuous feast of a film. Perennial Light invites you to glide down its gentle eddies of memory, regret, and loss. It promises to sit hauntingly in your memory for a very long time. Truly, if one needs catharsis, this film will grant it to you in spades. The camera glides along so smoothly. This is a real treat for any serious art-house filmgoer.
Perennial Light is Colin Hickey’s fifth experimental feature. Its maturity and the strength of its craftsmanship are fully realized for that reason. It’s as hypnotic as it is evocative, and not one word has been uttered throughout the production. That, gentle reader, is one hell of an authorial signature for a filmmaker. Seek it out if you’re up for a cinematic experiment. It’s a really great one.
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