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What a piece of work is a man

Via a rather weak connection with one of the film’s producers, I came into possession of a free ticket for the première of Man Made Men, a low-budget Irish film. [This film had originally been shown at the Galway Film Festival in 2009 but had been significantly re-edited before its Dublin première in October 2010.]  It’s the brainchild of solicitor Alex Fegan who as well as writing, directing and producing is also credited with the cinematography and film editing. His co-producer Helen Sheridan wore most of the remaining hats.

The ambitious but rather muddled plot concerns what happens when a student with the unlikely name of Benjamin Ezekiel (Rory Doherty) creates some sort of artificial “life forms” with the intention of proving that God doesn’t exist. It’s never quite clear whether these life forms are supposed to be biological or virtual, although they seem to have a real physical presence inside a box. Despite the apparently impressive achievement of creating beings who live and reproduce, Ezekiel is unable to produce a convincing simulacrum of human society, and turns to the Bible as a guide.Three (armed!) rabbis are despatched from New York to stop this experiment by any means necessary, guided by Shem (Tom Latchford), an old Jewish recluse living in a shabby Brooklyn apartment incongruously filled with flat-screen monitors and communication equipment.

Ezekiel’s experiment works but brings about the end of the world. This is not really a spoiler as the film begins by telling us not only that the world will end, but when; and it reminds us of this at frequent intervals. This is obviously intended to create suspense but as we are told that the conclusion is inevitable, it actually detracts from any sense of jeopardy. Curiosity as to how this will happen just about keeps the film alive.

A film with a plot this ropy needs fast pacing, and Man Made Men just doesn’t have that. It is painfully slow in places, occasionally lurching into a higher gear for a handful of clumsily executed action scenes. The dialogue is often unconvincing, the acting is wooden (with the notable exception of Tom Latchford as Shem) and the lack of budget is palpable in every scene.

But I didn’t hate this film. I can’t say it was a good film on any level but the obvious enthusiasm of Alex Fegan who introduced the showing was infectious. And the result achieved by a pair of amateurs who spent only €4000 was very impressive. Ultimately, despite this film’s many failings, Fegan and Sheridan can be very proud of having done so much with so little, and of filling a cinema with people eager to see it succeed.

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