Title The good soldier: Neil Jordanís Michael Collins
Author Ewan Morris
Issue Issue 8, 1999.
Neil Jordan's 1996 film Michael Collins should be understood in part as a response to debates within Ireland about the Irish nationalist past. By taking a somewhat ambiguous and contradictory view of republican violence during the War of Independence, Neil Jordan's film manages to reconcile the widely felt need among Irish nationalists for a heroic past with the longing for peace in Ireland in the present. It depicts republican violence as a restrained reaction to indiscriminate British brutality, thus preserving a heroic view of the War of Independence. At the same time, it shows that war has tragic consequences and suggests that peace is worth compromising for.
By focusing on Collins, a military leader who became a peacemaker, it is able to appeal to an audience within Ireland which is reluctant to repudiate the armed struggle which created the independent Irish state but which also wants to see a permanent end to violence in Northern Ireland today. The film also appeals to an audience outside Ireland by making Collins a populist hero: a man of the people and a man of action. By opposing Collins to the politicians it plays up to widespread distrust of governments and politicians.