The Meaning of Life in Gort, Ireland

When All is Ruin Once Again is about a small town called Gort in rural Ireland. Maybe it’s not the film that grabs your eye. There is no gripping hook, no murder mystery, Ponzi scheme or insurrection. And yet despite the film’s absence of a grand plot or narrative arch, the film draws the viewer into a world where the little things count, captivating audiences by skillfully weaving humor with profound sentiments — all against a backdrop of the Irish countryside. When All is Ruin Once Again takes the notion of an idealistic Irish town and turns it on its head. Without dismissing the famous Irish charm or soothing, lilting accent, the film adds nuance and further facets to the perceived character of Irish towns and their inhabitants. The men nursing a pint in local pubs have thoughts to share about life — why it exists, why they are there, the origins of the human race — or climate change. And perhaps contrary to many an outsider’s view, the deep Christian culture present throughout Ireland does not hinder members of Gort from acknowledging or addressing the changes in the environment around them. As one man poignantly put it, “it seems to me that everyone believes one can only sin against another person or G-d, but we must learn to recognize that we can sin against a blade of grass or a tree”.

The title of the film is taken from the last line of a W.B. Yeats poem. The film begins and ends with the image of a large, stone tower — the tower of Thoor Ballylee. Built centuries before, it was once inhabited by the poet W.B. Yeats in the later part of his life. And although once accessible by footpath, the giant rock face is now surrounded by marshy water where only the tops of trees peek through the still surface. Inscribed on the tower’s bottom runs the lines of a Yeats’ poem concluding, “[a]nd may these characters remain/ When all is ruin once again”. Yeats wrote these lines in another time, for another purpose. But the film has repurposed these lines to refer to a future where the world has fallen to ruin do to the effects of climate change. After all, one can only reach Thoor Ballylee by boat now due to the rising waters. But the film does not leave you solely to ponder the severity of climate change. By incorporating heavy doses of humor and human sentiment the film begs a larger question. It asks you to consider the beauty that humans can bring — the banter, the music, the laughs, the stories, but also the destruction, the motorways and factories. How can these two attributes exist within the same beings? Furthermore, throughout the film, members of Gort share stories and fables they have heard in their youth or composed themselves. The film illustrates that these are the old stories and narratives of the past. So then, what will the new stories be? How will they get told? When All is Ruin Once Again begs us to consider what stories have brought us to our present moment and what stories will take us into the future — however ruinous our future may be.

An unlikely find maybe, but When All is Ruin Once Again has the answer to life’s most profound questions, comical wit and scenes upon scenes filmed in Ireland’s beautiful countryside. Really, what more could you ask for?

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