Only Fair from a Distance (excerpt)
In the 1970s, Ireland began to find new life, in its booming economy, growing technology markets, decreased immigration, rising political power, and status as a top tourist destination. Ireland made the leap from the 19th to the 21st century almost overnight, bypassing the hundred years of natural development experienced by all other western civilization. Very quickly, it was a changed nation. As a result, any jaunt around Ireland, especially its smaller, rural villages, results in an untold number of startling juxtapositions, such as that portrayed in this meditative portrait.
A small-town traveling carnival, with its loud dance music, screaming kids, whirring machines, and garish strobing lights sits in the shadow of Ireland’s grandest cathedral, St. Patrick’s of Armagh, which is the seat of the Catholic Church for all Ireland. Within the frame, the carnival, and not the cathedral, becomes the gathering point for the Northern Irish village’s citizens (notably both Catholic and Protestant). The happy noises that emanate from its attractions drift into the darkness, seemingly swallowed whole by the looming cathedral and its intimations of hundreds of years of violent political struggle. The film’s somber, removed tone (“from a distance”) creates a sense of loss, a question of what’s being left behind as the nation marches into the future.