In commemoration of the centenary birth of author Máirtín Ó Cadhain, ‘Cré Na Cille’ is the darkly humourous tale set in a Conamara cemetery, which portrays the intense jealousy and hatred between two sisters, Caitríona and Nell which worsens with age and continues into the afterlife.
This a story about an obsessive hatred that started as a case of jealous rivalry between two young sisters, resulting in a broken heart as Neil got the upper hand on her sister, Caitríona, stealing away from her the man with whom she was in love. Caitríona never forgave her sister, nor would she forgive her as long as she lived, or indeed after that. The hate she has for her sister has consumed her to the extent that it guides her every step, in this world, and in the next!
And that’s where the film opens, with the death of our central character Caitríona Pháidín and her journey to the other side. Caitríona finds herself amongst the souls of the dead in the local graveyard. Old friends and old enemies. After the bitter disappointments of life she eagerly awaits to hear news of her sister Neil’s death so she can recommence the battle once more.
And indeed Neil is not the only subject of Caitríona’s wrath. She is so bitter and engulfed by resentment that she unleashes the fury she has stored up for her sister upon all who remind her of Neil or of her own misfortunes. Amongst those who feel her wrath are her son’s wife, Nóra Sheáinín’s daughter from Gort Ribeach ‘where they milk the ducks’; and indeed Nóra herself, ‘Nóra Smelly Feet’ who puts on airs while she tries to ingratiate herself with the school master.
Although Caitríona Pháidín is not endowed with a sense of humour, it is hard not to laugh at this big harridan of a woman who is stunted and suppressed by jealousy and hatred and by the pathetically lonely battle she fights ceaselessly against her sister and her sister’s offspring. The humour is not lost on her cohabitants in the graveyard (a wonderful collection of characters intent on needling and torturing each other endlessly) who have long since found her weak spot and who goad her mercilessly into anger — while at the same time avoiding the cruel lash of her tongue.
With the arrival of each new soul in the graveyard Caitríona asks for news of her sister and of her own son and his offspring. But the news that reaches the grave brings neither solace nor succour, as Caitríona hears of Neil’s prosperity and happiness, and indeed of the continued misfortunes of her own son and his offspring. Indeed, her anger and resentment become greater and greater until she finally has the satisfaction of hearing her sister has been brought to her death-bed and that they are at last approaching the long-awaited battle.