A Sense of Loss
DIRECTOR: MARCEL OPHÜLS
Introduced by Dónal Foreman.
At first glance, A Sense of Loss may seem like a fairly conventional “talking head” documentary exploring Northern Ireland in the recent aftermath of Bloody Sunday. But whereas the talking head format is typically used as a way of filling out a linear narrative line, German-born documentarian Marcel Ophuls’ exhaustive approach seems genuinely investigative. Indeed, Ophuls defined this film as “an investigation of death in all its forms,” in which he would begin with a bombing or shooting, branch out to question everyone involved, and only gradually draw out the historical and ideological causes. Over forty interviews are featured, with everyone from the families of victims and internees to Bernadette Devlin and the British Home Secretary. Each is permitted to speak at length, but also challenged thoroughly; Ophuls will often, for example, present someone with opposing views gleaned from a previous interview and intercut the results. Though he saw it as an “almost anti-ideological” film that attempted to model the “structure of research,” this didn’t prevent the BBC from refusing to broadcast it, or Time Out calling out the director’s “self-satisfied liberal smugness.”
Screening in the series Northern Ireland: Battle of Images.