Written by Paul g. Andrews, Thomas Keneally, Meg Keneally/ Reviewed by Biplab Das
Written by Thomas Keneally, Paul G. Andrews, Meg Keneally, and Christopher Angel, The Great Hunger depicts the harrowing tale of Irish rebellion broke out during 1848, also known as famine rebellion. Along with projecting the heroics of the rebels, the film also deals with a plethora of subjects like famine, black fever endemic, British imperialism, demand for independent Ireland, migration to America from Ireland, and so on so forth.
On the backdrop of famine and endemic which killed millions of ordinary Irish especially in the country side, the writers pen a heartfelt story of Delorey family. The story of the Delorey family is the story of ordinary Irish people who loses everything- from family members to possessions, during that period. The stand-out character of that family is Grace Delorey, a fascinating singer, who hailed as the voice of Ireland in the film. The loss of her father and younger brother because of brutality of the English soldiers ignited her to join the rebellion where she met Thomas Meagher. Thomas Meagher is the person who led the rebellion irrespective of being rich. Grace and Thomas developed a love affair occasionally paused by Dillion who also had an eye on Grace. However, The Great Hunger is not a story of a simple love-triangle. It’s a tale of the heroism of the ordinary people who defied everything from English imperialism, feudalism, debauchery, and personal loss to gain independence. The tormenting effects of living under a feudal system have been shown. Failing to pay rent even during a famine led to the destruction of the houses of the ordinary peasants is a single example of horrifying effects of feudalism out of many. The disturbing affection towards English imperialism among the lord is strongly visible in the film. The inhuman side of English imperialism and desire to control colonies from London has been vividly portrayed. The cunning ploy to create a market-driven capitalistic society under the banner of ‘improvements’ is not only a story of the world we live in but also the story of 19th century Europe. The deep-rooted hatred towards people of British colonies and also Jews is not only hinted but also been starkly presented.
In the film Grace and Thomas’s story is told by Grace’s mother Anne who immigrated to America with her another daughter hiding inside a coffin- a common practice for many Irish during that time to flee Ireland. The story of Grace and Thomas is the story of the film. Barring these two there are many other characters that had many drawbacks initially and fearful of joining the rebellion but eventually joined the cause. Thomas Meagher had influences in London but it was because of his heroics and oratory skills inspired many ordinary Irish people who had lost all hopes and was looking for something miraculous. However, the path to achieving a true rebellion was halted by multiple occasions due to sabotage, ill-preparedness, and lack of resources. Initially, Thomas failed to bring everyone under one umbrella and ask them to join the cause to fight for a united and independent Ireland. It is quite fascinating to see how Grace and Thomas kept aside their love affair to gain independence from the British. People who were sympathetic to the British eventfully joined the fight to free their motherland. It was Thomas’s leadership skill that brought young Irelanders under one common flag of Ireland. The battle was horrific and bloody causing many deaths which includes kids. During the battle, Grace lost her life to keep the Irish flag fly high. The young Irelanders lost the battle and Thomas was held captive by the English soldiers. However, they failed to execute him due to public outrage. The final outrage of the people was like the rise of a phoenix from the ashes.
Besides telling the story of the rebellion, the film also hints that why and how so many Irish people immigrated to America. The Great Hunger is the story of Irish people, their struggle to get independence. Even at the gravest of hours, valor can beat oppression; love can defeat apathy.