THREE STARS - Fable
The spiritual connection one feels with nature and the identity one receives from family are the themes explored in John Sayles’ “The Secret of Roan Inish.”
Set within the isolated northwestern seacoast of Ireland, Roan Inish is an island owned by the Coneelly family.
This connection with a specific island and the sea which surrounds it spawns a family identity which includes a primitive spirituality. They believe that “the Sea gives and the Sea takes away.”
This deifying of nature is common in mythology. These beliefs cause us to worship the creation rather than the Creator.
The family believes that in their ancestral line, a man took a “selkie,” a half-seal, half-human woman, for his wife. The descendants of this union now live a life “half-way between land and sea.”
Common to many mythologies which combine human and nature into a half and half creature, this belief compels the family to reconnect with Roan Inish.
To insure this occurs, the island and its selkies keep the youngest member of the family from leaving during a forced evacuation due to World War II.
Written originally as a novel by Rosalie K. Fry, the film presents two arguments about our lives.
The film presents a strong argument that the movement of human beings into cities is destructive.
Surrounded by the dirt and noise of man-made surroundings, the argument is made that the city disconnects a person from nature and the messages of nature.
Scripture would agree with this concern about our being disconnected with the created world. Scripture agrees that the natural world communicates a reverence of its Creator.
“The Secret of Roan Inish” suggests that the coneely family has a connection with a larger spiritual force and that not only is God watching over them, but so are the “selkies.”
This longing to have mythical creatures watch over us or even to mate with us is common in mythology. The Biblical solution to satisfy this longing is found in communion with God and in the experience of spiritual rebirth.
The central theme of returning to the island of Roan Inish and the return to the joy, lost years before in the war, is clearly similar to the Biblical account of a lost paradise and our desire to return to Eden.
Returning home, both spiritually and geographically, is a powerful spiritual theme.
The second argument John Sayles makes is that family identity has a way of directing the destiny of the family’s members.
This generation to generation impact is a truth identified by family therapists as well as in the Bible.
The impact of the decisions made by ancestors leaves a profound impact upon the family. Children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren often unknowingly repeat the mistakes and decisions of their forefathers.
In the film, the suggestion is made that this impact is due to the mystical mating of a selkie with a human. It is this event which then ties the family to a mystical union with the island and their extended selkie family.
In pastoral experience as well as in Biblical writings the fact that one experience can profoundly effect an entire lineage is clearly reinforced.
“The Secret of Roan Inish” is a film of spiritual longings and family connections which speak to our souls. The fact that it presents a primitive spirituality opens the door for us to explore a larger and scriptural spirituality.
We recommend that as you view this film, feel the longings of the Coneelly family, but look beyond the film for the fulfillment of those longings. Home and family, paradise and spiritual rebirth are found in the care of a Creator who shows Himself to be a loving Father.