The film “Holy Island“, distributed by UCM.ONE on the Artkeim² film label, opens today in selected German cinemas. The film was directed by Irish filmmaker Robert Manson.

In the film’s plot, David, a man in his forties, finds himself stuck in a run-down harbour town. He is waiting for a ship to take him home, but when all sailings are cancelled indefinitely, he is left in a state of uncertainty. He meets Rosa, a 31-year-old fellow traveller, who leads him into the depths of the city. Together they explore the strange, in-between world of the island, meet its inhabitants and piece by piece put their own lives back together. The film ends in a decisive confrontation in which only one of the two protagonists can be saved.

Robert Manson, the director and screenwriter, is a graduate of the NFS/IADT and founder of Ballyrogan Films. “Holy Island” is his second feature film project after “Lost in the Living” (Darling Berlin) and has already been shown internationally at film festivals. The film is a production of the Arts Council of Ireland.

Director’s commentary by Robert Manson

“The main role of David is played by two actors, an idea taken from Buneal’s “The Obscure Object of Desire”. The first half is played by one actor, a sombre and melancholy performance. Then there is a change and a younger actor takes over the role for the middle and later part of the film; this character is softer, more vulnerable and compassionate. The psychological change and development of the character of David is visually emphasised by this change of actor. The actors playing the role of David do not look identical, but they come from the same part of the world and have grown up similarly. This concept highlights an exploration of the concept of the duality of the self.”

“The film’s aesthetic for the black and white, lifeless harbour city of Limbo is an allusion to Michael Powell’s A Matter of Life and Death, in which the question is posed as to why the sky is black and white. The answer: because there is no life there. On the screen are predominantly 4K black and white images. In key sections of the film, flickering patches of colour are inserted to represent moments when the screen, the locations and the actors come alive and rich again. Super 8mm represents past memories in those healing moments when the characters close their eyes and their lives flash before them. These are not their lives or their direct memories, but the transplanted images of a collective consciousness.

Super 8mm archive material from my father’s archive was collected for these segments of the film. This bridges the visual gaps between the past, the present and the future. We shot sections on standard 16mm to connect all formats, 4K, 16mm and 8mm.”

This film explores themes of death, loss, home, love, emigration, family, survival, redemption and loneliness. Contemporary archetypes and stereotypes of ‘Irishness’ and national identity are explored through intergenerational encounters within this story.

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Press reviews of “Holy Island”

“A magical-fantastic panopticon of surreal imagery and associations from Kafka to Buñuel, Dalí and Bergman to Beckett and Lynch. Like a dream that nobody knows who is actually dreaming it.” (Filmdienst)“Some parable-like sketches are reminiscent of symbolic reveries a la Ingmar Bergman. The lost wandering on an island that doesn’t want to let its inmates go is also reminiscent of the TV series Lost, but places the characters here in a search for their own identity.” (Kino-Zeit)

“Holy Island is a drifting, dreamlike Irish tale of escape – with a hint of Kafka” (The Guardian)

“You can believe Manson’s honest love of cinema from Ingmar Bergman to Aki Kaurismäki in these ideas piled on top of each other in Holy Island” (Süddeutsche Zeitung)

“Anyone who can receive the ship’s radio on Robert Manson’s wavelength and engage with the enigmatic characters of Rosa and David will experience a shimmering, sometimes astonishing hour and a half at the cinema.” (

“An absurd Irish odyssey between life and death. A small, light and beautifully photographed film in which the audience can lose itself along with the characters.” (

More information about the film: Holy Island

More information about the film label: Artkeim²