The Eclipse: Ghosts and Guilt in Ireland

The Eclipse is a curious Irish ghost story that fiddles with the recipe just enough to produce interesting results. Solidly built and middle-aged, Michael Farr (Ciarán Hinds) isn’t the kind of vulnerable-looking nightgown-clencher usually cast to jump at bumps in the night—and it’s a not-yet-departed spirit that first harasses him. Working for a literary festival in his hometown of picturesque Cobh, widower Farr begins a shy flirtation with a visiting authoress, Lena (Iben Hjejle), and winds up competing for her affections with bestseller brat Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn’s enjoyment of playing such a lavishly awful American is infectious). Here are the makings of a poshly photographed grown-up romance—except, just as you’re sufficiently becalmed by one of the recurring parentheses of choral music and solitary drift, a bloodied ghoul jumps out. Michael shows Lena the local sights, and they form figures-in-a-landscape compositions before the low whorled clouds, clean waterfront houses, and the cathedral that towers over Cobh. The Eclipse is the simultaneous revelation of a place and a man, with their shared history, and it plays by virtue of Hinds, his face a hewn and weathered monument to regret.