Episodes directed by John Alexander, Diarmuid Lawrence, and Jim O’Hanlon
Screenplays by John Banville, Andrew Davies, and Conor McPherson
Based on the books by Benjamin Black, the nom de plume of acclaimed writer John Banville
The series is comprised of three episodes based on the first three books: Christine Falls, The Silver Swan, and Elegy for April
Also starring: Michael Gambon, Nick Dunning, Stanley Townsend, Aisling Franciosi, Geraldine Somerville, Brian Gleeson and Colin Morgan
Began production in Dublin Ireland on November 19, 2012
Filming completed March 8, 2013
Aired in Ireland on RTÉ February 16, 2014
Aired in UK on BBCOne May 25, 2014
DVD available at Amazon UK
Quirke is the chief pathologist in the Dublin city morgue–a charismatic loner whose job takes him into fascinating places as he investigates sudden death in 1950’s Dublin. His pleasures in life are raw and deep: a drink, a smoke, good food, a woman. One woman in particular–his adoptive brother’s wife Sarah–and the forbidden love that has shaped and dominated Quirke’s life. Adapted from the novels by John Banville, writing as Benjamin Black, the three feature length films–Christine Falls, The Silver Swan, and Elegy for April–reveal the tangled truth about Quirke’s living family, even as he uncovers the secrets of the Dublin dead. –from the DVD
Quirke is a bold, mesmerising drama full of mystery, secrets and intrigue, starring Gabriel Byrne and Michael Gambon. A consultant pathologist in the Dublin city morgue in the 1950s, Quirke is a powerful character more at ease among the cold silent slabs than the company of his fellow men. But in truth, his profession provides his greatest pleasure: inquisitive by nature, he is fascinated with unlocking the secret to these cadavers’ deaths.–RTÉ
Episode 1 – Christine Falls:
Dublin, in the late autumn of 1956. City pathologist Quirke stumbles late one night from a party in the nurses’ quarters with a view to sleeping off his hangover in his subterranean pathology lab. To his surprise his quiet refuge has been invaded by his adoptive brother, obstetric consultant Malachy Griffin, who is at Quirke’s desk completing some paperwork for a recently deceased patient named Christine Falls. When Quirke returns next morning to find Christine’s body gone, he remembers his brother’s odd behaviour, and becomes consumed by curiosity over what Mal was doing.
Slowly he closes in on Mal’s secret, all the time stirring up a hornets’ nest of trouble for himself and he begins to understand that there are some truths that may be better left untold.
Episode 2 – Silver Swan
It is early 1957 and the Griffin family has been blown apart since the revelation in Boston that Quirke is Phoebe’s natural father. Quirke is drinking heavily; Mal and Sarah’s marriage is on the rocks; Sarah is regretting the missed chances of twenty years before; Quirke and his adoptive father the formidable Judge Garret Griffin are estranged; and Phoebe has decided to assert her freedom from the lot of them by moving out of the family home.
Nothing anyone can say can dissuade her, and Quirke resolves to look out for her as best he can. But Phoebe pushes Quirke and the family away, defiantly taking up with a louche and dangerous young man by the name of Leslie White.
Episode 3 – Elegy For April
A year has passed since the end of Silver Swan. Quirke is fighting a battle with grief and drink – and losing heavily – while Phoebe is forging a new life for herself with the help of a group of oddly assorted friends.
Phoebe is worried that her friend April hasn’t been heard from in over a week. Lonely and desperate for deeper connections in her life, Phoebe asks Quirke for help, and Quirke, eager to reconnect with his daughter and to keep his own demons at bay is quick to give it.
As Quirke begins to investigate, April’s well connected family close ranks and Quirke finds himself alone in pursuit of the missing girl and involved in a world where race and class determine who the spotlight shines on and who is left alone.
The video below cannot be embedded on this page. Just click on the blue “Watch on Vimeo” button and you will be able to view it. This is a scene from the episode provided by cinematographer Ruairi O’Brien, and we thank him!
Screencaps for all three episodes of Quirke are available in the Gallery:
From Christine Falls
Quirke: So let’s say Christine Falls had been here. What would have happened to her baby?
Sister: The babies go to an orphanage, of course.
Quirke: Like Carricklea.
Sister: Yes, if they’re boys.
Quirke: That’s what they did with me.
Sister: Ah, that’s why you’re so interested.
Quirke: Only partially. Carricklea was a bleak place, a little bit like this, if you’ll allow me to say…
Judge Garret Griffin: Come on. Spit it out.
Quirke: There’s a girl…
Judge: Ach. No!
Quirke: No, no, no. It wasn’t anything like that. There’s this girl called Christine Falls. She died giving birth and I did the postmortem.
Judge: It’s a strange profession. Always coming in at the end of things…
Malachy: Now just leave it, Quirke.
Quirke: She’s yours, isn’t she?
Malachy: If you carry on, you’ll bring nothing but harm to everyone. Take my advice. Just let it go.
Quirke: Well, it won’t let me go!
From The Silver Swan
Quirke: I like your hat, by the way.
Sarah: Thank you! It’s new. (pauses) You’re very dear to me, you know? To all of us.
Judge Garret Griffin: Are you meddling again?
Quirke: Ha! Possibly.
Judge: You should leave all this kind of thing to the police.
Quirke: I would, except…
From Elegy for April
Father Anselm: Stopping drinking? That’s the easy part. The hard part is learning to live with yourself sober. How often do you pray?
Father Anselm: Yes. Pray.
Quirke: Who would I pray to?
Priest: Well, Dr. Quirke, on paper it seems you’ve done everything that was asked of you. You want to go home. Fine. But my concern, and I’m being frank with you, is that we’ll be seeing you back in here before long. You have an interesting job, a good mind, no family hanging out of you, no one telling you to do anything you don’t want to do, and yet you’re hell bent on killing yourself–with liquor. What would you say if I told you that was my life?
Quirke: I’d say Good Luck.
Priest: Allright. Good Luck.
Isabel: Good morning, Lazarus. How are you feeling?
Quirke: Just about as rough as I deserve to feel, I imagine. What time did I get here?
Isabel: About three. Half three?
Quirke: Did I disgrace myself?
Isabel: Did you try to get me into bed, you mean. Yes, you tried.
Isabel: Don’t worry. You were very gallant. I made you a cup of tea and you sort of keeled over.
Isabel: Quirke, if you’re going to keep apologizing, you can clear off.
Quirke: Sorry. (Laughs).
Gabriel Byrne on Quirke: ‘He is more at home among the dead than with the living’
We’re more used to seeing actor Gabriel Byrne on the big screen in movies such as The Usual Suspects and Miller’s Crossing. But now the Golden Globe-winning Hollywood star has returned to his homeland to star in a gritty new TV drama.
Set in 1950s Dublin and based on the novels of Benjamin Black (the pseudonym of award-winning Irish author John Banville), Gabriel stars as the titular character in Quirke. We don’t get to know his first name, but Quirke is the enigmatic chief pathologist of Dublin city morgue who, in the first episode of the three-part series, begins to question the death of a young woman, Christine Falls. As he delves deeper, his personal demons come back to haunt him when he uncovers secrets that have links to his own troubled history.
“I think that most people can relate to a wounded past. But some people are much more adept with dealing with it,” says Gabriel, 64. “I think Quirke is one of those people who hides his vulnerability and pain beneath an exterior of detachment.”
It was almost a Taliban-esque society’: Gabriel Byrne goes crashing into the past in ‘Quirke’
Byrne’s character, the eponymous Quirke (we never get to know his first name), is a pathologist at the Dublin city morgue. “Quirke was originally 6ft 4in, had the feet of a dancer and blond hair,” says Byrne. “And I said, ‘John, I’m really sorry but I’m not that.’ And he said, ‘It’s curious… since you started to do this I’ve started to darken Quirke’s hair and make him a little smaller.'”
Actually, I tell Byrne, I read the first Quirke novel to be adapted in the series, Christine Falls (in which orphaned Irish babies are clandestinely shipped over to a Catholic families in America), in the knowledge that he would be in the role. He seemed a perfect fit for the character Banville had written, while Andrew Davies’ adaptation recreated remarkably faithfully the pictures that had appeared in my head. “That’s good to know,” he replies.
Quirke star Gabriel Byrne: ‘Seeing a dead body was a very sobering experience!’
What drew you to doing a television series like Quirke?
“Firstly the books that the series is based on are written by one of Ireland’s greatest writers, John Banville. Also there’s very little complexity to films now and the more nuanced writing is for telly! The quality of writing is superb.”
Tell us about the character of Quirke…
“Quirke was a great role to explore, as he’s a loner, a pathologist and also a guy who’s very flawed and fighting his own inner demons. He’s not a not a detective, but as a pathologist he ends up caring about a woman who has died and discovers that a baby was taken from her, so he starts to investigate what happened.”
Did you do any research on how pathologists work?
“I did – and a body after an autopsy is a very sobering experience. In order to do be a pathologist, you have to be both detached and you have to care. It makes for special people. One pathologist said to me, ‘in the end we’re just bone, blood and skin’. I saw the body of a woman after her internal organs had been removed and it’s amazing how little is there after that – you really do realise how fragile the human being is. But one of the great things about being an actor is that you’re forced up against things you might not ordinarily look at.”
Dublin in the 1950s is shown as a very dark place…
“It’s the perfect backdrop for the imaginative part of the story – the gas lamps, fog, rain, the sea. It’s a very bleak landscape!”
Do you see it as your responsibility to speak out on the issues explored in Quirke?
“Not necessarily. We’re all entitled to our opinions, though I’ve never had any problems expressing mine!”
behind the scenes
TV Review: Quirke – ‘The true star of Quirke is 1950’s Dublin’
Playing a lead role that he was born to play, Byrne is at his smoldering, Bogart- best as Quirke, a pathologist whose half- brother, Malachy (Nick Dunning), a doctor in Dublin, he suspects of tampering with the death certificate of Christine Falls, which claims that she died of pulmonary embolism…
What is achieved best in what is a more than faithful adaptation of Banville’s novel is the depiction of the church and its role in what transpires to be a cover- up, though it does so without resulting to Dan Brown-esque conspiracy theories. In fact, what makes Quirke chilling is how faithful the language and the era are portrayed: every long, black coat, every rimmed hat a nod to the era that it portrays.
Quirke is an intelligent noir mystery which faithfully adheres to the rules laid down by the noir genre. This makes for stunning and compelling viewing that succeeds in captivating the audience for the entirety of the episode. The narrative is precisely written and it never lets you down. It would be very easy to get bogged down in the criteria that the genre requires but Andrew Davies’ adaptation is clear and crisp. It absorbs you with every passing scene.
Quirke also boasts a fantastic cast, who underplay their parts so well that every plot reveal is made all the more gripping when we discover the true extent of each character’s involvement. Special mention should go to the anti-hero himself: Gabriel Byrne’s performance as Quirke is possibly the finest of his career. His lazy drawl and his acknowledgement that wrong has been done and must be put right is astoundingly impressive.
Some commentators regard Gabriel Byrne as a bit past it for the role, possibly as his young niece has a crush on him, but this is an unfair assessment. He’s supposed to be her uncle after all and perhaps we’re over-accustomed to seeing leading men under forty. The action shifts between Dublin and Boston USA, territory Byrne knows well from MILLER’S CROSSING (though he was on the flip-side of the moral compass there) and he could do this sort of thing in his sleep. Understated but with the air of a man who’s seen his fair share of demons, he is perfect casting. The producers haven’t filled the supporting roles by half measures either. While it doesn’t take a genius to work out Michael Gambon isn’t going to remain the benevolent cameo he first appears, I’m not going to complain about him being around. The confrontation between the two men reeks of quality and this is a thread to be continued over the weeks, something I for one am looking forward to.
Dublin goes noir as Benjamin Black’s novels come to the screen
They’re calling it Dublin noir and, on first showing, there’s something very stylish about the BBC’s new three-part drama starring Gabriel Byrne. Pubs and cigarette smoke and long, smouldering looks help the cause. There’s plenty of rain too, and a lot of grey and blue in John Alexander’s film, broken up by flashes of colour and arresting, unusual camera angles.
Based on the books by John Banville (writing as Benjamin Black), Quirke boasts an impressive cast including Michael Gambon and Geraldine Somerville, with screenwriting duties shared by Andrew Davies, who penned this episode, and Conor McPherson. First outings need to hook us with a storyline but also make us want to spend time with the characters, and with Byrne in the title role there’s more than enough to hold our interest. His Quirke, a 1950s Irish pathologist, is a masterclass in less-is-more.
2 discs, no special features
Description: Gabriel Byrne plays the eponymous Irish pathologist-cum-sleuth in this three-part BBC adaptation based on the novels by John Banville. While fulfilling his duties as chief pathologist at the Dublin City Morgue during the 1950s, the insular and surly Quirke (Byrne) ploughs a lonely course, managing his depression by haunting Dublin’s dank alleyways and bars. But when he begins to notice inconsistencies during routine examinations, Quirke’s natural inquisitiveness to find out the truth soon leads him on a tour of Dublin’s less salubrious areas, where he faces unresolved issues from his own past that would be better left undisturbed. The episodes are: ‘Christine Falls’, ‘The Silver Swan’ and ‘Elegy for April’.
Page to Screen: Quirke: Elegy for April, by Stella
How do you take an entire book and transform it into a 90-minute television show?
I recognize that the page and the screen are two different canvases. On one canvas, you tell the story. On the other, you show it. Words are important for both, of course, but there can only be so many words said on a screen–too many and we all change the channel. We want to see the story. It takes a strong writer, a thoughtful director, an imaginative director of photography, and a great composer to bring the printed word to life on screen–and skillful actors to embody the people we know very well in our heads. And that’s what happened with the last episode of Quirke.
All three episodes were scored by composer Rob Lane.
Thanks to ByrnePerfection for sharing her fan video!