Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Review: Moby Dick, Sinclair Seamen’s Mission, Church, Belfast

So good, it almost felt like being in the belly of the whale

The importance of the location where you see a film is maybe underestimated. The right place adds quite a bit to the overall pleasure.

Last night, as part of this year's Film Festival, Moby Dick was shown in the snug historical interior of the old Sinclair Seamen's Mission Church in what used to be called Sailortown. It made John Huston's version of Melville's tale of the old man, the sea and the white whale that takes on a devilish significance all the more powerful.

As Orson Welles preached to his flock from the pulpit with a prow, we sat watching a screen that concealed just such a pulpit.

The synchronicity made one think a bit, and the resonance of the nineteenth century language came across well in an interior from the same period.

As obsessive Captain Ahab, played with rolling eyes and stern delivery by the incomparable Gregory Peck, started out on his fateful journey and appointment with Moby Dick, the ‘vast marble tombstone' who will be his undoing, we felt sucked into the notions of the book.

Even the whale-killing, filmed as written as a sort of manly triumph over dumb beasts, didn't offend the way it might when watched outside these surroundings. It was a clever idea, and worth doing again. Maybe other movies and other venues — His Girl Friday in the Telegraph, anyone?

Jane Hardy

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