Fifth Province, The

Director: Frank Stapleton

The very first shot panders to the foreigner’s notion of Ireland – rain falling on a green sward with folk music on the sound track, then a track to Innisfree Guest House, which has something eerily familiar to it. Does not the building resemble the Bates Motel from Psycho? This suspicion is confirmed when we realise that the awkward young man (Brian F. O’Byrne) who runs the estbablishment has an unseen, domineering mother upstairs, a situation which triggers off certain themes from the iconographic Hitchcock movie that resound throughout the entire picture, ending in matricide. Or does it? Long before this point has been reached, we realise that, although the film is set firmly in a recognisable Ireland, it is, at the same time, as the title suggests, situated in the province of the imagination.
At a screenwriting seminar attended by the young protagonist, the would-be writer Timothy Sugrue, the lecturer (stylish Lia Williams with an amusing, indeterminate North European accent) says that she wants upbeat urban stories that have pace and verve and not scripts about Irish mothers, priests, sexual repression and the miseries of the rural life.
Pointedly, however, The Fifth Province has all the latter elements, except for a priest, whose role of father confessor is usurped by a psychoanalyst. You know, Timmy, you have a powerful imagination says the shrink (Ian Richardson giving a beautifully measured performance). The lugubrious country lad certainly has, because he manages to conjure up a ‘Tulpa’, someone or something created in one’s own mind but which takes on a real existence. Timmy’s ‘Tulpa’ is a Spanish pilot (a convincing Anthony Higgins) who has wandered in from the Spanish Civil War….
Any summary of the plot makes the film sound more whimsical than it is. What rescues it from whimsy or sentimentality is its delicious irony and black humour….

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