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Liam O’Flaherty’s The Informer and the Aesthetics of Terror

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Screening Modern Irish Fiction and Drama

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in Adaptation and Visual Culture ((PSADVC))

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Abstract

Liam O’Flaherty’s The Informer (1925) has been adapted three times, each time employing inventive cinematic techniques to convey its tale of personal loss and betrayal among Irish Republican Army terrorists in Dublin on one night in 1922. The novel presents an allegory of Irish national character through the desires and self-deception of the animalistic Gypo Nolan, whose internal monologues reflect the shifting political consciousness during the Sinn Fein rebellion. Both the novel and the films dramatize the subjective perspective of Gypo’s resistance, rebellion, and repentance, an emotional pattern akin to the tumultuous shifts within Irish society at that time. For Elstree Studios in 1929, Arthur Robison incorporated sound effects, a soundtrack, and a few dialogue scenes to accentuate the frenetic energy of Gypo’s (Lars Hanson) dipsomania and despair. John Ford’s expressionistic The Informer (1935) enshrouds the Weimar-like street scenes with dense fog and chiaroscuro lighting effects that convey the moral ambiguity of betrayer and betrayed in war-torn Dublin. So successful was Ford’s film, garnering several Oscars including Best Actor for Victor McLaglen, that it was turned into radio plays for Screen Guild Theatre (1944, 1950), Academy Award Theater (1946), and Ford Theatre (1948). Jules Dassin’s Uptight (1968) adapts both O’Flaherty’s novel and Ford’s film to expose the internal and external cultural divisions that isolate black America. Set in Cleveland four days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the film concentrates on loyalty and betrayal among members of the Black Panther Party. This Technicolor noir employs neo-realist cinematography with the sensibility of a psychosocial documentary. All three film versions maintain a critical distance from the politics of terrorism in order to expose the debilitating personal paranoia and grief that accompanies revolutionary times.

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Pettey, H.B. (2016). Liam O’Flaherty’s The Informer and the Aesthetics of Terror. In: Palmer, R., Conner, M. (eds) Screening Modern Irish Fiction and Drama. Palgrave Studies in Adaptation and Visual Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-40928-3_2

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