Reviews (and more) of Bloom

Bloom is the story of one day in the life of one city. The day is the 16th of June, 1904 and the city is Dublin...but Bloom is much more than that...it is a gateway into the very consciousness of its three main characters, Stephen Dedalus, Molly Bloom and the extraordinary Leopold Bloom.

We begin with Molly Bloom’s streaming interior monologue. It is the night of Bloomsday. Molly is awake, her mind awash with thoughts of the day just passed; her affair with Blazes Boylan; the early delights and now staleness of her marriage to Leopold; her sadness at the loss of their son Rudy; her life as a child; her existence as a person. At the opposite end of the bed lies Leopold Bloom, his toes cajoling her face.

We leave Molly and return to earlier on the same day where both Stephen Dedalus (Joyce’s alter ego) and Leopold Bloom have risen and are embarking on their, as yet separate, journeys.

The events that follow are a journey into the minds of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. Stephen, young poet and intellectual, strives to affirm, accept and rejoice in his own complex identity, rejected by his conventional and religious parents, seeking a father and intellectual equals, oppressed by the philistine society he finds himself in. Bloom, the complete, rounded man is content. He understands and has accepted the reality and failings of the world around him, yet he is troubled by the realisation of his wife’s infidelity, by the lack of a growing son, by the anti-semitism he encounters. His mind is a spectacular stream of ideas, thoughts and revelations - a mind that reveals the essence of humanity.

Bloom’s and Stephen’s paths appear separate and unconnected until they are utterly unified within the anguish and exhilaration of the Nighttown episode.

The crisis of the film, this is a meteoric sequence where the events of Bloomsday and of Bloom’s and Stephen’s experiences explode in an interweaving, interchanging, ever-changing landscape of nightmare and sexual fantasy.

It is now late at night at Bloomsday. The nightmare is over and, in a new friendship that resembles father and son, each finding what they sought in lost son and father-substitute as well as an intellectual equal, Bloom takes Stephen back to his place to sober up and to sleep after a long day’s journey. As Bloom sleeps we return, as we began, to Molly’s soliloquy. Again her mind is a swirling mix of thoughts about her affair with Boylan; the possibility of seducing Stephen; the death of her son Rudy and finally of the day that Bloom proposed to her at Howth Head.

And so we end, as we began with the word “yes” in the famous closing speech of the novel. Bloom is a tapestry of links and ideas - the revelation of man’s inner thoughts and consciousness.

Extracts from press reviews:
The Observer.
"…a highly skilful work that captures much of the sweep and scope, the all-encompassing particularity, profanity and profundity, of its source. Cleverly structured and interwoven, it's faithful to Ulysses’ modernist spirit, multiple narratives and voices, everyday language, its fascination with such universals as birth, death, sex and defecation. It's a period piece that feels utterly contemporary, and not just because of its representations of anti-Semitism, its references to foot-and-mouth disease, and the fact that at the end of the film, after the film has faded to black for the final credits, Bloom is seen stepping out of 1904 and into a crowded modern-day Dublin. The language of Ulysses remains vigorous, musical, modern.

The film is also especially good at rendering visible the ever-spiralling fantasies and hallucinations of the Nighttown section of the book, the fits and starts of our internal thoughts and daydreams, and the undercurrents of sexuality. Stephen Rea perfectly portrays Leopold Bloom's baleful resignation and cultured vanity, and Angeline Ball is utterly venal, conniving and captivating, she is word become flesh again."

Sunday Times.
With Stephen Rea typically morose as Leopold Bloom, and Angeline Ball breathing raw sexuality as his wife Molly, Bloom is an ambitious film. An earlier version, directed in 1967 by Joseph Strick, was more straightforward. Strick believes that a film-maker’s duty to great books is to copy them literally. Walsh is more artistic: he is actively looking for ways to transfer Joyce’s originality, rather than just his characters, to the screen. Metaphors are made visible. There are scenes in which characters levitate, and jump cuts that shatter the illusory realism of 1904 or the standard conventions of period drama by which the past is typically represented on screen.

The scene in Davy Byrne’s bar is particularly good, with the male customers leering knowingly at Bloom because they know about his wife’s affair. There is an ugly anti-Semitic edge to their pub banter: it undermines the stereotype of the jovial Irishman and reveals how casual racism runs beneath the surface. The scene in Walsh’s film is both an accurate rendition of the equivalent scene in Joyce’s novel, and a cinematic translation addressing contemporary questions of sex, race and nationality.

Ball is superb; she brings the carnality of Molly Bloom to life without substituting a modern woman for the character. She is a creature of 1904 with human desires that her time suppressed beneath a veil of gentility. The undercurrent of sexuality that runs through Walsh’s film is a success: it captures the quality that shocked Joyce’s original readers.

Sunday Independent, At last, a Molly who Blooms brazenly.
Bloom is a marvellous achievement. It is full of humour and colour. It is quite brilliant, with the inspired casting of Angeline Ball as a very earthy Molly Bloom and Stephen Rea as Leopold Bloom. It is bright, fresh, bold, daring and downright brazen in its sheer sexiness. This Molly Bloom would even make Sharon Stone blush. Angeline Ball was born to play the role. She is voluptuous and earthy and, in short, she is every living man’s fantasy.

Sunday Tribune, Getting a handle on Joyce
Bloom is a bawdy, irreverent, lyrical, compassionate, anguished, earthy, profound and deeply humane slice of life, performed with verve and intelligence by a superb ensemble cast led by Stephen Rea’s soulful and stocial Bloom, Angeline Ball’s sensually direct Molly and Hugh O’Conor’s boyish Stephen.

Paul O’Brien, Irish Examiner Ulysses film blooms a ‘masterpiece’.
It’s a literary work so daunting in scale and reputation that just one filmmaker has ever had the courage to adapt Ulysses for the big screen

US director Joseph Strick's 1967 treatment of Ulysses was subsequently banned for 33 years and, as a result, James Joyce's epic never really permeated the consciousness of cinema- lovers. Until now, that is. Next Sunday sees the Irish premiere of a new screen version of Ulysses, and critics are already hailing it as a masterpiece.

Bloom, written and directed by Sean Walsh and shot on location in Dublin… features a stellar cast and is largely faithful to Joyce's work. Excitement is growing in advance of Sunday night's screening at the Galway Film Fleadh.

While the book remains one of the great literary paradoxes possibly the most famous of the 20th century but remaining unread by the masses - the new film will make many more familiar with the fictional events of June 16, 1904. "Ulysses is recognised as the greatest novel of the 20th century and yet it has always been my view that the book remains hidden to the vast majority of people," Mr Walsh said. "In adapting the novel, I set myself three goals: firstly, to present the story to a wider audience; secondly, to reveal the utter humanity and, indeed, humour of the novel; and, thirdly, to attempt to sketch some of the styles and tricks employed by Joyce," he said.

…Cinema fans will love it, too, if its reception at Italy's Taormina BNL Film Festival last month is anything to go by. The 5M film had its world premiere there and was widely praised.

In particular, the performances of Stephen Rea, as Leopold Bloom, and Angeline Ball, as his wife, were lauded. Rea is brilliantly at ease in Leopold's shoes, despite the complexity of the character, while Ball is simply scintillating as the sensual Molly. "The book was shocking at the time," said Walsh. "In its mundaneness, it is extraordinary because our lives contain waking up, going to the toilet, masturbation, birth and death and sex, that's in the book and, therefore, it's replicated in the film.

Ireland's best-known Joycean scholar, Senator David Norris gave the movie his full backing. "The film is brilliant, witty, innovative and imaginatively faithful to Joyce's work," he said. Effusive praise, though, won't be enough to get it into cinemas worldwide and Walsh is currently working hard at putting distribution deals in place. Whereas Ulysses tells the story of Leopold's one-day odyssey through Dublin, Bloom was an odyssey of 10 years work for Walsh.

Production Information

Production Company: Odyssey Pictures
Director/Producer: Sean Walsh
Co-Producer: Mark Byrne
Executive Producer: Gerry Murphy
Director of Photography: Ciaran Tanham
Production Designer: Mervyn Rowe
Costume Designer: Tara Van Zyl
Music Director: David Kahne
Editor: Sarah Armstrong
Casting: Daniel Hubbard and Mary McGuire
Art Director: Steve Simmonds

Film details
Duration: 113 Minutes
Budget: EUR 5M, funded by private equity, section 481 finance (Irish Government Tax Scheme) and The Irish Film Board.
Location: Shot on location in Dublin, Ireland.

Production Team and Main Crew:
Executive Producer: Gerry Murphy . Experienced business person, former Advertising Manager of Bank of Ireland, Director of Dublin radio station Lite FM 102.2 and a range of other companies. Gerry has supported the development of Ulysses since 1993 when Sean Walsh started working on the screenplay. Executive producer since 1999. See more at www.gerrymurphy.com

Co-Producer: Mark Byrne . Based in London, Mark works with the production company, What’s the Story?

Director of Photography: Ciaran Tanham. One of Ireland's most distinguished and talented Directors of Photography, Ciaran's credits include: The Borstal Boy; Ballykissangel; Bobbie's Girl; Riverdance and Anytime Now.

Production Designer: Mervyn Rowe. An outlandishly gifted designer, his credits include: Trip to Tunis; The Shilling Man; Excalibur; Regina on the Steps; The Never Ending Story; Asterix; EyeWitness and Rebecca's Daughters.

Costume Designer: Tara van Zyl. Tara has worked in the international film industry for nearly 10 years. Her career began in Dublin training under Ireland's leading Costume Designer Joan Bergin. Credits include Dancing at Lughnasa, The Boxer and The Devil's Own. Design credits include the award winning RTE/ Irish Film Board short The Breakfast and most recent All God's Children.

Music Director: David Kahne. Grammy Award winner David Kahne has composed and produced the soundtrack for the Bloom feature film. Ulysses was, he says, "the greatest read of my life, a life-changing event. I consider it a privilege to be involved in the film." David won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year for his production of Tony Bennett and has produced hits for The Bangles, Shawn Colvin, Bruce Springsteen, Sublime and Sugar Ray. David, who will work with Dublin musician/composer Aidan Coleman, has just finished the new album by Paul McCartney, "Driving Rain". David is currently producing singles for several new artists, scoring a film about the Holocaust, and beginning work on his second ballet score for Twyla Tharp in New York.

Editor: Sarah Armstrong. Based in The Farm in Dublin, Sarah's credits include: Out of Nowhere; Marcus; Big Boys Don't Cry; Who's That Standing Beside John Murphy and What About The Children.

Casting Directors: Daniel Hubbard and Mary Maguire. A world class act with an unrivalled knowledge of Irish, U.K. and internationally based cast. Credits include: Tomb raider I and II; Below; Angela's Ashes; The Commitments; Chocolat, The Lord Of The Rings I, II and III.

Art Director: Steve Simmonds. Steve's credits include Blake's 7; Dr. Who; Alien; Star Wars; Raiders of the Lost Ark and as Art Director: Full Metal Jacket; Sheltering Sky; December Bride; K2; Moll Flanders; Sweeney Todd and Little Buddh

Sean Walsh Director
Sean Walsh (42) was born in Dublin, Ireland and has experienced a wide range of careers including banking, building and busking. He has travelled extensively and began his career in film in London in 1985. His “break” into the film industry was of his own making - he constructed a placard and walked up and down Soho (Film making area of London) until somebody gave him a job. He began as trainee assistant editor with Wardour Motion Pictures, a small company involved in the production of television commercials and attained a diploma in Television Studies at South Thames College.

Sean returned to Ireland in 1990 and took over the running of Millbrook Studios which he transformed from a traditional audio-visual company into a fully-fledged film and television production and post-production company. In 1993 Sean formed Odyssey Pictures with a view to adapting James Joyce’s Ulysses for the screen. Now, some ten years later, that dream has become a reality with the completion of the feature film Bloom.

His major credits include: “A Sunday in September”; “Sown in Tears and Blood” and “The Blind leading the Blind”. He has received three awards from the Confederation of Irish Industry and is a member of Screen Producers Ireland and a voting member of the Irish Film and Television Academy.

Director’s Statement
The completion of Bloom marks the end of a ten year odyssey for me as I first got the idea to adapt Joyce’s masterpiece in 1993. The journey since then has been nothing less than a roller coaster ride and I can honestly say that I can’t imagine ever doing anything as challenging or as exhilarating again.

The novel Ulysses is recognised as the greatest novel of the twentieth century and yet it has always been my view that the book remains hidden to the vast majority of people. Ulysses is the sort of book you will find in most homes and yet when you ask people have they read it, the answer is usually in the form of: “Oh No! I gave up after fourteen pages!”

In adapting the novel, I set myself three goals. Firstly to present the story of Ulysses to a wider audience; secondly to reveal the utter humanity and indeed humour of the novel and thirdly, to attempt to sketch some of the styles and tricks employed by James Joyce.

It is of course impossible for any film to do justice to the greatest comic masterpiece ever written but I do believe that our adaptation has achieved the targets I set myself.

In terms of direction, my approach was very simple - I surrounded myself with a highly talented and motivated cast and crew and I sought their ideas and input at every stage of the film. Honesty and integrity also played a key part and the atmosphere on set was amazing.

Bloom is about nothing and yet it is about everything - my hope is that anyone who watches the film will sympathise with the characters. More importantly, I hope that they will see a part of themselves reflected on the screen.

Lead cast credits and statements:
Stephen Rea: Leopold Bloom. Oscar nomination for The Crying Game Golden Globe Nomination, Best Actor, 1997 Tony nomination for Someone Who'll Watch Over Me. Credits include: Tara Road; Breakfast on Pluto, Evelyn; End of the Affair; In Dreams; This is my Father; The Butcher Boy; Crime of the Century; Michael Collins; Shadow of a Gunman; Citizen X; Interview with the Vampire; Bad Behaviour; The Crying Game; Company of Wolves.

“Leopold Bloom is one of the great Irish roles – there aren’t that many.” “It was fantastic to work on. Every day you would wake up and know that you were working on this wonderful piece of literature and you can’t say that very often when you are working in films.” “The dream sequences were the best for me – you could just go crazy. People should try and realise that Joyce is very, very entertaining.”

Angeline Ball: Molly Bloom. Angeline is one of Ireland's leading and best known actresses. Her credits include: Dead Long Enough (in post production); An Angel for May; The Bombmaker; Housebound; The Auteur Theory; The General; Tina; The Gambler; Trojan Eddie; Brothers in Trouble; The Commitments.

"I was quite intimidated by Molly’s freedom of thoughts and sensuality, because I thought ‘Oh God; am I going to be able to say these things, never mind act them. I thought, ‘My God, I’m going to have to say this whole monologue very quickly because some of the things I was saying were embarrassing me! But I had to trust my instincts; something kept telling me to do it, that it was going to stretch me as an actress. Playing the role was very freeing."

Hugh O'Conor: Stephen Dedalus. Arguably one of Ireland's finest young actors, his credits include: Blueberry; Coney Island Baby; Deathwatch; Chocolat; Hotel Splendide; Sawdust Tales; The Boy from Mercury; The Young Poisoner's Handbook; The Three Musketeers; Icarus; My Left Foot; Da; Lamb.

"Stephen Dedalus is a real know-it-all and a cocky bastard, but I found a certain warmth in the character. I tried not to make him deathly serious. I’m very proud to have been involved. There is a real warmth and humanity to it. People may love it or hate it, but if it makes people read the book, then that’s a good thing."

Other cast and credits:
Patrick Bergin: The Citizen. The Great Ceili War; Ella Enchanted; When the Sky Falls; Suspicious Minds; Patriot Games; Sleeping with the Enemy; Mountains of the Moon.

Alan Devlin: Simon Dedalus. Song for a Raggy Boy; Ordinary Decent Criminal; Oliver Twist; War of the Buttons; Clash of the Ash.

Phelim Drew: Martin Cunningham . Shergar; Angela's Ashes; Widows' Peak; Fatal Inheritance; Into the West; The Commitments; My Left Foot.

Maria Lennon: Bella Cohen. Flick; Crossmaheart; Eviction; Her Own Rules; The Informant; The Governor; Devil's Advocate.

Alvaro Lucchesi: Buck Mulligan. Evelyn; Bobbie's Girl; The Count of Monte Cristo; Angela's Ashes.

Eoin McCarthy: Blazes Boylan. Mystics; Sideshow; Yesterday's Children; The Cater Street Hangman; Land and Freedom.

Dearbhla Molly: Mrs. Breen Loaded; Run of the Country; Frankie Starlight; Taffin; Educating Rita.

Rachel Pilkington: Gerty McDowell LSD1973; Bumble’s Burden; Caring; I Could Read the Sky; Mystic Knights. "Bloom is about nothing and yet it is about everything - my hope is that anyone who watches the film will sympathise with the characters. More importantly, I hope that they will see a part of themselves reflected on the screen. "