Review: Jacob Wrestling With The Angel

As I got off the bus and made my way towards Temple Bar, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this preview screening. Having watched the trailer for Jacob Wrestling With The Angel, I was intrigued and maybe slightly sceptical in all honesty. I’ve a relatively open mind when it comes to film and as I left the sun kissed streets of Dublin, I was plunged into a dark and cool basement of ‘Filmbase’.

A drinks reception awaited cast, crew, friends, family and myself before the screening. Chatting to people involved with the film before the screening took place, I got a real sense of their passion and dedication to this project which is always great to hear from people who genuinely love what they do.

As I sat in my seat waiting for JWWTA to begin, whilst drinking red wine from a plastic cup, I felt very optimistic about what I was about to witness and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

‘Jacob Wrestling With The Angel’  is a biblical reference that is found in the book of Genesis. The account includes the renaming of Jacob to “Israel” which literally translates to “He who struggles with God”. God in this case, however, is Jacob’s mental state and his constant struggle to determine what is real and what is false.

This remarkable short film is Bertie Brosnan’s professional directorial debut and the message is as relevant then as it is now. Mental health is an extremely topical issue in this country of ours and this film certainly relates to me and I’m sure many others.

The beauty of  JWWTA and it’s handling of such a topic is it’s subtle nature. At times we see Jacob struggling even within his dream like state. Pure tension on Jacob’s face says absolutely everything without even uttering a word. Lighting also plays a big part and Jacob is yet again plunged into an almost moral dilemma. Does he move towards the light or does he succumb to the dark recesses of his mind?

These particular scenes are some of the most hauntingly beautiful of the film and last long in the memory. Even as I type, I’m still remembering the imagery and the almost harrowing and slightly sinister tones playing throughout the film. The repeating quote of “Is there really such thing as freedom?” will play out over and over again in my mind.

Visually, the film is stunning. Beautiful shots of forestry and from wide to almost claustrophobic shots are a great signifier for Jacob’s mind. Wide open spaces almost represent freedom while small and enclosed spaces are seemingly like a mental cage that Jacob finds himself in.

JWWTA is the type of film that will certainly divide opinion and is certainly a piece that challenges audience members to look further than what they see on screen.

For a first professional film, it really is an outstanding piece of work and if Brosnan and his fantastic crew can continue producing works like this then it’s only a matter of time before the film world wakes up and takes note of a very talented film maker.

For more info on the film you can find ‘Jacob’ on the following sites:

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[Image: Film Ireland]

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