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Man of Aran

4.6 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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(May 20, 2003)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Robert J. Flaherty’s award-winning Man of Aran uses stunning location photography and brilliant montage editing to build a forceful drama of life on the Aran Islands. Situated among the frequent and violent storms that slam into its barren landscape, the islands are "three wastes of rock" off the western coast of Ireland. With a small crew, Flaherty spent nearly two years shooting, developing, and assembling footage of the islanders’ Herculean efforts to survive in unbearably harsh conditions. Home Vision Entertainment is proud to present this historic masterpiece in a new digital transfer.


While it stretches the definition of documentary, Robert Flaherty's Man of Aran remains a triumph of poetic imagery, and one of the greatest nonfiction films ever made. Critic Pauline Kael hailed it as "the greatest film tribute to man's struggle against hostile nature," referring to conditions faced by bold residents of the Aran Islands, 30 miles offshore from Galway, Ireland, amidst the harshest seas of the Atlantic. Flaherty and his tiny crew spent over two years on the islands, chronicling the rugged lives of the Araners on a landscape so rocky that seaweed is used as improvised soil. Flaherty cast the film with assorted locals and recreated anachronistic events (such as the harpooning of a basking shark) from Aran's past, inviting controversy over the film's authenticity. That debate continues on this DVD's exceptional bonus features (for retrospective insight, "How the Myth Was Made" is every bit as good as Flaherty's film), but Man of Aran is, and always will be, a timeless record of extraordinary people, miraculously surviving in a most extraordinary place. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • How the Myth was Made: A Documentary about the making of Man of Aran
  • Hidden and Seeking: A documentary excerpt in which Frances Flaherty reflects on her life and work with Robert Flaherty
  • Flaherty and Film:: A filmed discussion between Frances Flaherty and Robert Gardner about the making of Man of Aran
  • Looking Back: Robert Flaherty reflects on the two and a half years of production on the Aran isles in this film excerpt
  • Outside the Frame: A gallery of production stills, sketches and publicity photos

Product Details

  • Actors: Colman 'Tiger' King, Maggie Dirrane, Michael Dirrane, Pat Mullin, Patch 'Red Beard' Ruadh
  • Directors: Robert J. Flaherty
  • Writers: Robert J. Flaherty
  • Producers: Michael Balcon
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Homevision
  • DVD Release Date: May 20, 2003
  • Run Time: 76 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008UALI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,239 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Man of Aran" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paulo Leite on May 16, 2003
Format: DVD
At last! Man of Aran is one of the true greatest documentaries ever made. Like Nanook of the North (Flaherty), Olympia (Riefenstal), The River (Lorentz) and many others, this is a key work in the history of documentary films.
Now about the film itself: shot for two and a half years on the irish coast, Man of Aran follows the lives of a group of irish fishermen: their constant struggle for life in a sea full of dangers. The cinematography is simply breathtaking. I simply cannot remember another film that has ever captured the sea with such a poetic feeling of greatness and power. Like most of Flaherty's films, this is a labour of love and devotion.
It is incredible that a film like this was made nearly 70 years ago!! It has a technical brillance and a dazzling style that puts it over any other film made at sea. This film shows like no other the unbelievable battle men undertake against the sea. Death, life, storms, winds... and above all, love for the sea.
This film is a true documentary experience like no other (talk about the power of the images...).
This DVD edition has a fantastic pack of extras. Two documentaries (one about the film, other about Flaherty himself). Photos and lots of great information about this landmark film. The image is very good (considering the age of the film) and the sound is very good. I replaced my VHS copy (it had a poor picture - full of damages). This is a great DVD edition. If you already know the film, this is a great DVD to have and treasure. If you don't know the film yet, give it a try for it is a true gem.
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Format: DVD
"Man of Aran" may strictly be no documentary, but it is very real. The hard life of the people of the Isle of Aran is portrayed in its full harshness and splendor. Of a sort.

Robert Flaherty, director of acclaimed documentary "Nanook of the North," brings his same authentic eye to this struggle of man against nature, and how people can claw out an existence in even the harshest of climates. His camera makes you believe his story, as does the unaffected dialog and ability of his subjects.

Unfortunately for Flaherty, the daily life struggle of the Aran inhabitants was not raw enough, so he brought their lives about 90 years into the past, into the realm of harpoon shark fishing and suicidal egg hunting near towering cliffs. In order to resurrect this past, he located islanders who remembered the old ways, and knew the skills necessary to achieve his vision. In this way, Flaherty is authentic, using the elder residents to bring their childhood to life again. But it was not modern Aran.

This DVD is fantastic, bringing not only the original docu-drama, as well as several supporting documentaries regarding the making of "Man of Aran," about Flaherty himself, and several interesting dialogs about the film. One could not wish for a more complete package.
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Man of Aran (the extra features aside) stands as a landmark film, a beautifully-shot evocation of the desolate west Ireland coast, part documentary, part fiction. These are actors, but the man, woman and boy are placed in timeless places and activities -- the physical labor and danger very real -- whether it's trying to spear a shark the size of their boat, or trying to extract themselves and that boat from an angry sea, or scratching a potato bed from rocky soil and making the soil in the process. Flaherty is as painstaking as these people, showing a very real process of creating a potato bed out of nothing but rock.

It's worth noting that film was still just emerging from the silent era then, and Robert Flaherty apparently filmed a silent film and then masterfully added sound -- there's very little dialogue (other than incidental). The repeated footage of the sea breaking on that cliff-lined coast conveys all of the power and danger of that surf. (The print seems of good quality.) The documentaries on the DVD show just how primitive the cameras and other equipment were -- indeed, the four documentary featurettes tell much about the difficulties and limitations of film production of the day.

The documentaries also put the film in perspective, returning to a much-tamed Aran of a later day. The interviews with former cast members and other islanders can be touching and genuine.

Possibly Robert Flaherty's best film, and the DVD is a worthy vehicle for it.
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No movie better illustrates the tenuous, symbiotic relationship between brute nature and human endurance than Robert Flaherty's hauntingly gorgeous "Man of Aran." Flaherty, director of the classic "Nanook of the North" and father of the documentary form, shot "Aran," his first sound feature, over the course of two and a half years, casting heroic locals in key roles and training his camera on the rugged, magnificent environment in which they eke out their survival. "Man of Aran" is pure visual poetry, astounding and unforgettable.
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This gripping 77-minute film holds us spellbound and captivates our imagination as much as almost any other work in the history of cinema.

Yes--it's because of technique; and yes--it's because of the artistry, because of the the craggy feel of the Aran Isles and the hard-scrabble looks of the locals pressed into service as actors by the brilliant documentarist, Robert Flaherty.

But there are deeper reasons, too. We have an inner need to glorify and dramatize the hardships of our ancestors and of those who have come before us. This mythmaking process--for myth it is--is an essential way in which we define ourselves and place ourselves in human history.

And the Aran Isles occupied a central place in the mythmaking that allowed the Irish Republic to define innate strengths and assert its identity, independence and nationhood.

As William Butler Yeats stated: "We desire to preserve into the modern life that ideal of a nation of men who will . . . remember always the four ancient virtues as a German philospher (Nietzche) has enumerated them: first, honesty among one's friends; second, courage among ones enemies; third, generosity among the weak; fourth, courtesy at all times whatsoever . . ."

Yeats and Lady Gregory, concerned to engender a foundational mythic drama and poetry for modern Ireland, sent John Millington Synge to the Aran Isles to live among peasants and capture the cadences of their speech and learn their outlook on the world. That advice became a turning point for Synge, both of his life and career. Out of it came the book of his experiences there
...Read more ›
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