Film & DVD Review: Ulysses

Directed by Joseph Strick

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington


Click on image to buy DVD

The time frame for this film is one day – June 16th, 1904. We follow Leopold Bloom, a middle aged Jew and Stephen Daedalus, a poet as they move around Dublin. In some ways their day is unremarkable, ordinary. Yet we see a whole range of human behaviour and because of the way the book was written we gain insight into their emotions, thoughts and memories. It’s a film about relationships. Bloom’s love for Molly despite her infidelity, Molly’s love for Bloom, Molly’s purely sexual lust for Boylan, Bloom’s fatherly love for Stephen, Stephen’s constant searching for fatherly influence. We experience their small successes and minor disappointments. Finally the two come together in a chance meeting and become friends.

Joyce plays with language. The style of writing varies throughout the book and this is reflected in the film. Each chapter of the book uses a different narrative technique. Some are told from the first person, some are told by an all-knowing narrator, and some by an anonymous witnesses. This can be a litle bewildering but it is also intriguing.

The film, like the book, is curiously life-affirming – despite the petty mean acts and betrayals which are present. The end of the film shows Bloom and Molly, his cuckolding wife, renewing their relationship. As the Producer and Director Joseph Strick says in the sleeve notes to the DVD: “It is the supreme achievement of Joyce’s art that he brings about, not a happy ending, but a hopeful one.”

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