Where the Merrows Roam
30 Sept 2021
Colin Hickey, Diana Tregnago, Liam Cotter
Interconnected lives meet across the Irish countryside in Colin Hickey’s Where the Merrows Roam, a dialogue-free experimental film which uses a mysterious plot and a majestic setting to create a dynamic, if difficult feature.
The film takes an interpretive approach to its plot, which largely focuses on a woman’s (Diana Tregnago) reminiscing on her past, whilst a young boy (Thomas Hickey) travails the countryside with a cap gun stalking local wildlife. Without even a word of dialogue, their stories unfold across a stunning landscape and quaint rural town as revelations come to pass.
Where the Merrows Roam is an artistic and contemplative film, with a unique construction and beautiful setting but suffers somewhat from an overly elusive plot and themes that are not fully communicated through the unique, dialogue-free dynamic. However, this does bring an originality to the film that is welcome, and compliments the ethereal vibe of the piece. Director and star Colin Hickey deserves credit for this production choice, and whilst it will inevitably isolate some viewers, the visual storytelling on display is an artistic treat in its strongest moments.
Similarly, the editing and cinematography are further indication of the creativity at the film’s heart. Made up largely of still shots, viewers are left as though they are watching a series of paintings play out in front of them rather than a motion picture. Unrelated on their own, the shots build upon each other to conjure a developed and living world in which the film comes to life in. The observational perspective assigned to the audience allows them to get lost alongside it. It is the strength of these techniques that allow the film to speak without words – such as in scenes where a character’s presence, and then absence, say more than dialogue ever could.
The film effectively portrays an underlying darkness throughout its runtime, in striking contrast to the quaint landscape and simple lifestyles. The inner torment of the young cast members, as well as hidden threat of a shadowy figure played by director Colin Hickey, are the strongest examples of this – with shots of these characters becoming tight and claustrophobic as their story develops. Scenes of the hillsides feel like a breath of fresh air and reprieve from the intensity. Whilst still a visual treat, the creepy undertone sticks with viewers long after the credits roll.
A word should be reserved for the film’s score, which is critical for establishing the tone. From upbeat Irish jaunts which promote a youthful and energetic exploration of the land, or sombre overlays which hint at a sinisterness in the air, the music provided by Pipe Gaitan weaves seamlessly with the imagery to complete a sensual experience that viewers can fully immerse in.
Proving the old adage that pictures speak a thousand words, Where the Merrows Roam is a slow-burn that provides audiences the opportunity to lose themselves in a mercurial daydream. The experience will not connect with every viewer, and the story becomes overly intricate at times. But the inventiveness of the storytelling means that those it does reach will remember their experience.