'The whold town wanted to be extras' - Colm Toibin on 'Brooklyn' in Enniscorthy

Published 13/10/2015 | 00:00

Brooklyn author Colm Toibin.
Brooklyn author Colm Toibin.

Brooklyn author Colm Toibin perfectly summed up the buzz around the movie version of his novel by saying that everyone in Enniscorthy wanted to be an extra when scenes from the film were shot here last year.

Writing in The Guardian newspaper in England, Toibin also reveals that Enniscorthy is given both a glamour and a darkness in the upcoming movie, which will be premiered in the Riverside Park Hotel on October 28.

'The whole town, it seemed, once the film was announced, wanted to be extras, writes Toibin. 'The film people built a shop. They made a former bank building into a post office. But there are some scenes that are pure, authentic Enniscorthy, especially the streets where Eilis walks. These streets - John Street, Court Street, Lower Church Street - have not changed much. No new buildings have been added or demolished there since the 1950s. They have a lovely timeless feel to them, a timelessness disrupted by the arrival of a girl home from America wearing sunglasses, causing every head to turn.

'The town is given a glamour and sometimes a sort of darkness in the film, but more than anything it seems real, exact, true. Whereas words slip and fail, and the power of words lies in their ambiguity, visual images are sharp and exact. In the film of Brooklyn, Enniscorthy is transformed, but it is also captured.'

Toibin's latest article for The Guardian, which has a massive online readership across the globe, further enhances Enniscorthy's reputation, with the town very much in the spotlight thanks to the novel and movie.

Before the movie went into production, Toibin had lunch with the director John Crowley in London where the author raised the possibility of the Enniscorthy scenes being filmed on location. Nothing was confirmed at the lunch however, but a couple of weeks later, Toibin learned of the decision to film in Wexford.

'Some months before the filming of Brooklyn I had lunch in a restaurant in Soho with John Crowley, who was to direct the film,' said Toibin. 'I noticed how patient he seemed, and quiet-spoken, direct. I also realised that he had other things on his mind, and that my wanting the Enniscorthy scenes shot in the actual town, rather than in some other town, might seem like a novelist talking, and not someone who knew anything about film. I didn't push the point and he didn't promise anything.

'When they told me soon afterwards that they were going to shoot the Enniscorthy scenes in the very streets where they happened, I wondered if they knew what this meant.

'It meant that they would find a way for the Athenaeum to be reopened and they would shoot the dance scene in the very place where my father ran dances.

'They would shoot the wedding scene in the cathedral where I went to Mass all through my childhood. They would shoot the scenes where Eilis walks through the town, first as a young Irishwoman, and then as a returned emigrant, in the very John Street and Court Street that I had imagined for the novel, and that I had known all my life. They would shoot the beach scene in a place where we had gone on holidays.'

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