“A Fanatic Heart: Bob Geldof On W. B. Yeats”

A 2 DVD / CD set

Amos Lassen

Musician and advocate Bob Geldof looks at the life and work of one of the 20th century’s greatest poets, William Butler Yeats. Yeats’ story is the story of revolution, nation-birth, mythology and disillusion and it is the story of a poet/dreamer who saw his Ireland move from poverty and famine to become a modern state.

The film includes over 30 unique performances of Yeats’ epic poetry by leading Irish and British cultural figures and Geldof shows why Yeats and his circle built the cultural foundation of a modern, pluralist Ireland but were pushed aside by the narrow-minded Catholic elite of the new Free State.

The film was written by Geldof and biographer Roy Foster and features readings by celebrity contributors Sting, Noel Gallagher, Elvis Costello, Edna O’Brien, Bono, Van Morrison, Shane MacGowan, Olivia O’Leary, Liam Neeson, Stephen Fry, Dominic West, Richard E. Grant, Bill Nighy, Anne Enright, Colin Farrell, Ardal O’Hanlon and many others.

W.B. Yeats is chiefly remembered for writing THE poem commemorating the Easter 1916 uprising. In “Easter 1916” in which he wrote “a terrible beauty is born,” a line as complex as it is memorable. The documentary explains Yeats’ complex personality, and in doing so, it helps us to understand what the poem actually signifies. Yeats was born to a Protestant family and grew up in poverty bur he was a man of artistic creativity; his brother Jack was a famous artist and Olympic medalist. Yeats spent much of his early and formative years roaming the Irish landscape, and it was then that he discovered some of its lasting significance that are parts of it its myths and legends. The past inevitably held sway over the present, and we see the importance acknowledge one’s heritage. Yeats became part of the movement seeking independence from Britain in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

During the 1916 rebellion there was a substantial group of Protestants who sought similar objectives as the Catholics, not through violent means, but through legislation, especially the Home Rule bill. The British government had agreed to pass it, but it was put on hold during World War One. Yeats was one of those seeking to restore it to the forefront of the agenda.

Yeats was not sure whether the rebellion made a lasting contribution to Irish independence and this is the oxymoron “terrible beauty” in the poem – while it might be wonderful to see Irish men and women taking to the streets to resist the colonial power, their action cost them many lives. Over two hundred and fifty civilians died during the six days of the rebellion.

While Yeats eventually became a member of the new government set up after 1922, he was not happy in his post. He felt that Ireland was becoming subject to a restrictive Roman Catholic regime and this stifled rather than promoted creative thinking and/or dissent. He resigned from the government and spend the rest of his days as a poet.

Geldof obviously has a great enthusiasm for Yeats and as well as an enduring resentment of what had happened to Ireland since 1922 and we certainly see that here in this beautiful tribute to a great poet.

DVD EXTRAS include:

* Over two hours of additional commentaries and readings by dozens of celebrities

* Two songs based on Yeats’ poems by:

–    Bono “Mad as the Mist and Snow” *previously unreleased

–    Elvis Costello “A Drunken Man’s Praise of Sobriety”

* Yeats Remembered soundtrack by Pete Briquette [30 mins]

* 73 poetry readings and 23 discussion pieces

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