Wednesday, March 14, 2012

St. Patrick: The Irish Legend (2000)

As a lover of all things Irish I particularly enjoy the story of Saint Patrick and his missionary work in Ireland. I'd been interested in this film of his life and work for a while and was thrilled when it was available for viewing on Netflix.

St. Patrick: The Irish Legend wasn't quite what I was expecting - it has good points and bad points. My hope is that this review will help anyone who has been interested in this film and encourage others to learn the true story of Patrick a missionary and hero of the faith.

Story: Patrick lives a privileged life in England with his parents but his mischievous ways disappoint his parents who want to see him well educated and wealthy. Although his family is Christian Patrick is not a true believer. One night he sneaks out of the house to watch the ceremonies to pagan gods in the woods and he is pressured by his friends into joining in "for fun". When Celtic warriors come to round up slaves Patrick is taken captive and sold to a rich landowner in Ireland. Put to work tending flocks Patrick cries out to the one true God for forgiveness and help. After Patrick's salvation he continues to serve his master faithfully for six years using the time to draw closer to God through prayer. One night he hears a voice telling him "your ship is ready" so he runs away to the seaport where he is given free passage to England. Back home his parents are overjoyed to see their lost son until Patrick tells him of his calling to become a lowly priest and return to the land of his captivity as a missionary. Patrick goes to a monastery in Gaul where he studies with the hope of becoming a priest and later Bishop of Ireland in order to teach the Irish people God's Word and ordain converted Irishmen so they can teach their own people. Many years pass before an opportunity of going to Ireland arises. When the old pompous Bishop of Ireland dies leaving the position vacant Patrick is appointed and travels to Ireland. His work is hard but the Lord greatly blesses and protects the lives of Patrick and his converts on several occasions. As the message of God's Word is spread whole clans turn from following the druids and their barbaric ways. When problems arise between the greedy church in Britton and Patrick the Bishops claim he is unfit in his role and threaten to excommunicate him and the church in Ireland if Patrick does not leave. In his trouble Patrick calls out to God and is ready to leave Ireland if asked for the sake of the believers there but it is made clear that God has much more work for him to do.    
Druid Sacrifices
Costumes & Music: The costumes are nothing extraordinary. The peasant's clothing are often unusually colorful, but the Bishop's robes are quite rich and magnificent. They remind me more of costumes from an armature dramatics play but they serve their purpose of setting the scene.
The music is sometimes a bit thematic but there are some Irish influence in some of the scores that help set a nice tone.

Patrick and his followers in Ireland
Scenes: The indoor scenes were most likely filmed in studio sets but work alright. Most outdoor scenes, especially the ones of Ireland are so picturesque and quite lovely!

Luke Griffin as Young Patrick
Acting: I only slightly recognized two of the actors. The acting was okay, it was a TV movie so some of the acting is a bit dull or overdone but the actors who played Young and Older Patrick were quite good.

Pagan Worship
Bad Points: The film shows some of the pagan worship rituals such as human sacrifice (no blood or death is shown), drinking and ritualistic dancing but it was was dealt with fairly well and does imply the darkness of these beliefs. The film takes a literal view of the visions and miracles said to have been part of Patrick's faith such as when Patrick cries out to God as a slave they show a light and "the voice of God" speaking to him. When Patrick lands on the shore of Ireland with the other monks snakes are shown to literally leave the land and go into the water. Patrick and his men are turned into deer so a group of the High King's men won't kill them and later Patrick and a disciple walk in and out of a burning building untouched. While all these miracles and visions most certainly could have happened - because our God is powerful - showing them in the film sort of makes it look like it was Patrick who has supernatural powers instead of God who worked through him. Patrick sometimes seemed to get angry and do miraculous things without being seen to pray for the Lord's assistance. A clear message of salvation through faith in Christ was not strictly given and good works were made to look just as important as faith.

Patrick answers writes about his experiences
Good Points: A lot of Patrick's own words about his faith were used in the narrative of the story. I especially liked the part where it told about Patrick being a shepherd out in all weathers and praying any time of the day and waking in the night to pray. The film shows Patrick as totally devoted to God and his calling and not being swayed from his faith even on point of death. Patrick's sermon using the shamrock as an illustration of the Trinity was included and done quite well. The film gives a great overview of Patrick's life and work and ends with him continuing his work. It's quite well done for being made by secular film makers.

Patrick Bergin as Older Patrick
Overall Recommendations: St. Patrick: The Irish Legend is not rated, there is no mature content, no swearing and no excessive violence. I'd say it's safe for family viewing and could be a good teaching tool for anyone wanting to learn more about St. Patrick's life and faith. As a period set film the costumes and sets are just fair and the acting is just okay. It's nice to have a film about Patrick to watch on St. Paddy's Day but it could have been a bit better if more attention was focused on the God and faith that guided him instead of on the legends and miraculous events that his story is now steeped in. The DVD can be ordered from Amazon and is available for instant viewing on Netflix. I also saw it at my local Walmart recently in their display of Irish related films.

For any families wanting to teach their children about Patrick as a missionary and hero of the faith I'd also highly recommend the Adventures in Odyssey episodes Saint Patrick: A Heart Afire from Focus on the Family Ministries. This two part radio play features a dramatized version of Patrick's life and particularly focuses on his salvation and how God guided him through his ministry in Ireland. A lot of why I love St. Patrick's Day has to do with how much I loved those episodes growing! The two part episode can be downloaded from the Focus on the Family website (for $1.99 each!) or purchased in a CD set from there, Christian Book Distributors or Amazon.

Have you seen or been interested in St. Patrick: The Irish Legend
Have you ever heard Adventures in Odyssey's Saint Patrick: A Heart Afire?
Have you read anything about St. Patrick's life and work?

Very Truly Your's,


Sara said...

I love everything irish so much (I actually just came home from the local irish pub, enjoyed some irish jams ;)) and I want to learn more about St. Patrick, and this film looks interesting, I think I will try to search for it and watch it on saturday before heading to irish pub! Thank you for this review!!

autumn coffee and inspitation

Nam said...

Stumbled upon your blog by a stroke of luck. It was like opening a box containing all the things I adore, in generous doses- charming, vintage, quaint, delicate, worded, imagiative, magical, artistic and stuff of legend. I think I shall lose myself here!

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