Ten years after his groundbreaking adaptation of Ulysses, Joseph Strick adapted James Joyce’s Bildungsroman about the early life of alter ego Stephen Dedalus. Whereas the earlier film presented the events of a single day, this one spans a decade, tracing Stephen’s life from early 1890s childhood (against a backdrop of political upheaval) through a strict Jesuit education, growing awareness of both aesthetic and sexual matters, and his ultimate realisation as a young adult that Ireland is too hidebound and priest-ridden to allow him to flourish, a dilemma faced by countless contemporaries (including Joyce himself) as they contemplated the dawn of a new century. As before, the author’s dazzling prose is well to the fore, delivered by a variety of Irish actors (Bosco Hogan, Rosaleen Linihan, T.P. McKenna, Rosaleen Linihan, Maureen Potter) and Sir John Gielgud, whose fire-and-brimstone sermon is one of the most memorable things he ever did on film.
In Dublin in 1900 Stephen Dedalus, the future genius James Joyce, struggles through the crises of youth and sexuality. When frustrated by conventional women he turns to prostitutes and suffers the agonies of conscience furthered by his church. Then terrified by a priest's sermon on the horrors of hell, he gives up promiscuity. He matures into a young man able to begin to find his place with his own ideals in the world.
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