Sunday, September 09, 2007

'Prosperity' IS The Real Thing

'what you are'

I may come back later and add more, but I just wanted to put in a plug for the new Irish drama, 'Prosperity', which I watched last Monday. I was glad to see that the Saturday Irish Times gave it a thumbs up. Lenny Abrahamson (director) and Mark O’Halloran (writer) are the team who gave us 'Adam & Paul', the unfolding of a grim, blackly comic day in the life of two Dublin junkies. Beautifully written, directed, acted and edited, that film was remarkable for its quiet but relentless focus on the wanderings these two individuals. Yet, up till the very end, nothing remarkable happens; yet the whole adventure is remarkable, human in the fullest sense of the word.

My cousin, who edited 'Adam & Paul', alerted me to 'Prosperity', which she has also worked on. The first one-hour episode, like 'Adam & Paul', involved quite a bit of wandering. Subtitled 'Stacey' (the name of the main character, a teenaged mother), it follows her through her day; leaving her hostel with her baby, visiting the mall (where she gets chatted to by a friendly security man), meeting her edgy, scuzzy boyfriend Dean (the dad), getting a talking-to by her bitter but wiser sister, meeting a guy with a beat-up face ("walked into a door") who asks if he can 'borrow' one of her cans of beer... and so on.

But this run-through tells you next to nothing. The directing, script and acting are perfect. There is an unobstusiveness, a tact and clarity that make 'Prosperity' the freshest thing I have seen in ages.

It is uncomfortable to watch in places, such as the scene in the cafe where Dean kisses shy, introverted Stacey deeply and intimately for far too long. Whether this is to humiliate her or get her aroused enough that she will ask her sister to babysit for an hour so that he can fuck her, or both, is not clear. You recoil because you have been given enough time to feel Stacey's vulnerability, her carefully applied mask, a makeup of silence and indifference. But this is as things should be; we should be able to feel Stacey's discomfort here and elsewhere, such discomfort being very much a part of who she is.

Watching 'Prosperity', there is a sense of something refined, a dramatic clearing where the usual paraphernalia has been removed. The characters are given real space to move in, 3D space, living space. The framing and focus are absolutely right. There are many close-ups. We notice Stacey's jewellery, the new hair-clip she buys, which a girlfriend remarks on but which is, naturally, way off the boyfriend's radar (Dean probably wouldn't have noticed if she'd dyed her hair green).

The similarities with Ken Loach's films have been noted. Some might think it pretentious that one of the reviewers in the IT mentioned Joyce's Ulysses. But I believe it is perfectly apt: that leisurly, wandering pace, deep-focus space and time in which odd details crystalise. I was reminded of Beckett. There is the ear for demotic speech (and more importantly, demotic silence), which he and Joyce shared. There is the waiting, mirrored by the resignation waiting in the wings, the black comedy. I was also reminded of Robert Altman, especially the first film of his I saw, 'Nashville', those parallel lives converging but in no hurry to do so.

The first episode of 'Prosperity' is, truly, a work of art. I am looking forward to the next, on Monday, 9.30, RTE 2. You should be, too.

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