James Joyce Gin's 'The Celebration' Is a Love Letter to Its Namesake's Great Works
It's been a rough year for small, independent brands (not to mention everyone else). In true James Joyce style, James Joyce Gin decided to lean into that energy, enlisting Dermot Malone to direct "The Celebration," an ad that draws inspiration from Finnegan's Wake and The Dead.
The work stars Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and is narrated by Philem Drew, the son of the Irish folk singer Ronnie Drew, one of the founders of Irish folk band The Dubliners (also named after a James Joyce work).
We open on a wake, somber and formal. The casket sits right at the center. But as the words of Joyce drift through the room like a spell, the mood shifts. "Once their story remains on our lips, they can never be gone," Drew incants. "Moments of their secret lives burst like stars upon our memory, their joys and mistakes portals of discovery."
Apart from this gentle rising and falling of the emotional mood, very little happens here. The camera moves clockwise around the room, the direction of prosperity and growth—of life. Elsewhere, too, the work is replete with Joycian affectations.
It's set in winter. Hints of Aegean blue, on candles and pillows, nod to the first-edition dust cover of Joyce's Ulysses (much like the brand's packaging). The Georgian building, so typical of Dublin, is inspired by one that Joyce's great-aunts inhabited—also the setting for The Dead.
Oranges nod to the ones eaten in the meal within the aforementioned work, and also reference the orange and clove botanicals that can be found in the gin.
"For many small brands like us, it will have been a particularly tough year, and it's hard to go out there and do something brave. But together with Dermot, I felt that we had a strong undiluted creative idea," says Denis Kilty, co-founder of James Joyce Gin.
"Obviously, paying homage to Joyce is hugely important to us, but much like Joyce, the story here isn't the setting—the wake—it's what happens there. It's about the people. We felt telling the story in this way also captures the heart of Irish culture; of telling stories, dancing, playing music and carrying it forward for others."
It also feels appropriate, at this moment in time, to circle a casket. This year has been an exceptional one for death, and in many cases, we couldn't mourn in the ways we needed to. Parts of us have died, too, as well as aspects of our lives we did not suspect were so fragile. The emotional rise and fall of a wake—grief, laughter, long silences, the secret contemplation of a memory, the sense of solitude even in community—is a very 2020 vibe.
"If you're familiar with the works of James Joyce, you will know that whilst the texts themselves may focus on sometimes darker subject matter, they are in fact a celebration of what makes us human," says Malone. "They pull us into a moment and reflect on what makes life beautiful. We wanted to honor that legacy, and the legacy of this gin brand, by celebrating the unique way Joyce's writing connects with people. We were also honored by a number of big names in Ireland's creative community. We can't be thankful enough to see so many amazing creative people and families in the filmmaking community step in to support this film."
Client, The James Joyce Spirits Company Product, James Joyce Gin
Founder, Denis Kilty
Creative, Dermot Malone
Director, Dermot Malone
Producer, Matt D'Arcy
Production Co., Banjoman
DOP, Burshi Wojnar
Voice Over, Phelim Drew
Edit, Rob Hegarty
H+S, Blue Screen Medics Post:
Color Grade, Matthieu Toullet MPC
Post Producer, Jen Connelly
Sound Mix, Denis Kilty
Music, Denis Kilty
Ferdia Walsh Peelo
Oisín Walsh Peelo
Meabh Walsh Peelo
Toni Walsh Peelo
Frank Walsh Peelo