Celluloid Joyce

The Trials of Ulysses

James Joyce: The Trials of Ulysses (2000)

2000; Documentary.
Color, 50 minutes.
Directed by Ian Graham

I don't have a lot of detail about this film, except for two blurbs, both hailing from Irish Film Festivals. The first is from The Irish Times, covering the Galway Film Fleadh 2000:

In a different genre, two documentary profiles of 20th century Irish artists -- one extremely well known, the other half-forgotten -- were in a familiar style, inter-cutting interviews, location footage and archive material.

Ian Graham's James Joyce: The Trials of Ulysses, examined the turbulent life of the writer during the writing of his most famous novel. While much of the material was familiar, there was an added emphasis on Joyce's atrocious behaviour towards Nora Barnacle while the couple was in Trieste, which made his portrayal in Pat Murphy's Nora seem almost saintly. As always, the problem with a film such as this is the absence of primary sources -- a 30-second archive clip with Sylvia Beach told us more about the subject than half and hour of academic talking heads.

The second is from the Web page of the 2001 Seattle Irish Reels film festival:

The Trials of Ulysses, shot in Trieste, Zurich, New York and Dublin, retells the history of this acclaimed masterpiece. The film recounts the books early battles against charges of obscenity and its official banning in the USA. It portrays Joyce's own trials as a writer and his long struggle to get Ulysses published. Always intelligent and learned, it also touches on the background life of Joyce and Nora Barnacle.

It wears its admiration for Joyce and his work on its sleeve and though it doesn't restore his reputation as a family man, it does suggest that a book as masterful as Ulysses does necessitate certain sacrifices. Beatifully framed and paced, The Trials of Ulysses is insightful and authoritative -- a very valuable addition to our knowledge of the man and his work.

Additional Information

The Rat Pack -- This article from the July 14, 2000 Irish Times is the source of the first excerpt. (Registration required.)

Irish Reels -- The homepage for the Seattle film festival.

--Allen B. Ruch
12 June 2003

BLOOM: (His eyes closing, quails expectantly.) Here? (He squirms.) Again! (He pants cringing.) I love the danger. -- Send email to the Great Quail -- comments, suggestions, corrections, criticisms, submissions . . . all are welcome!

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