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Second Sight

Well-spun tales of Gaelic spectres unfold in new film

By Patricia Clarke

Second Sight
Produced and directed by Alison McAlpine

It could be described as one of the “thin places” between this world and the next. The mists, the craggy hills, the lonely vistas. Scotland’s Isle of Skye seems a place where spirits might slip from one world to the other and show themselves to people who have the time to wait.

Today, the gift of “second sight,” or involuntary visions, is fading — like the last generation of Gaelic storytellers, like the island way of life itself. Second Sight is an elegy from Canadian poet and dramatist Alison McAlpine to that way of life and to its last survivors.

The stories told by her great-grandmother, who had the gift of “second sight,” inspired McAlpine’s film. On Skye, she meets Donald Angus MacLean, an 80-year-old preacher who introduces her to other elderly folk who tell of other-worldly visitations: a drowned child, a message of impending death, a ghost car looming out of the mists. (All are men; perhaps women have no leisure to commune with spirits.)

Why are so many people on Skye able to see things? Perhaps because they take the time. Perhaps because they grow up in a close community, without electricity or television, where the evening entertainment is gathering to tell stories. Some are more believable than others, depending on the reputation of the teller. Who could doubt Constable Ian Morrison, who claims on three occasions to have chased the ghost car?

The scenery is gorgeous, evoking a spirit-haunted land. It should inspire viewers to see it for themselves. But if you go, beware. On the one-lane road, on a misty evening, you too may meet that black ghost car.


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