Set in Ireland in 1920, Ascendancy is a powerful meditation on English guilt over the tormented history of Northern Ireland. Connie (Julie Covington) is an English aristocrat driven to despair over the horrors of war, including both the residual effects of the Great War and a new wave of violence emerging on the streets of Ulster.
Produced in 1982 by the BFI and Channel 4, Ascendancy reflects the political climate of the time, when the British government’s strategy for dealing with Northern Ireland was often openly questioned. Here, Connie’s eventual refusal to eat is clearly a reference to the hunger strikes and protests then occurring in British jails. Edward Bennett’s forceful and intelligent film won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, but has since been difficult to see - it is now ripe for reappraisal.