Thursday, October 09, 2003

(In the initial post, this was after my discussion of the Magdalene Sisters)
On a lighter note--

This is fun:
1. Go to
2. Type in: weapons of mass destruction
3. Click "I'm feeling lucky"
4. ^_^

Repeat the process, but type "french military victories"

* * *

Had a fab day--

Highlights of the morning:
the movie
lunch & dessert
... the whole morning, basically ^_^
(Thanks, G! ^_^)

Now, about the movie I'd been dying to watch (and finally did today):

***Spoiler Alert***
***Spoiler Alert***
***Spoiler Alert***

"Magdalene Sisters" was everything I expected it to be and more.

The story is set in very Catholic Ireland during the 1960s. Named after Mary Magdalene, the Magdalene Asylum was a house for "fallen women". The focus of the movie are on four characters: Margaret, Rose/Patricia, Crispina/Harriet and Bernadette. These women were sent to the asylum for different reasons but it all boiled down to the fact that they were *women*. ~sigh~

An early scene in the movie shows Margaret, Rose and Bernadette being instructed by the Head Nun of the asylum (Sister Bridget) on why they are there. (women as a "moral danger" that should pay for their sins, can only be cleansed through work, blahblahblah) It is interesting to note that, as this scene is played out, the audience never get to see the face of the nun, only her hands as they count wads of bills. (Throughout the movie, Sister Bridget would be seen counting money, rolling them into nice, neat rolls and tossing them into cookie tins.)

Peter Mullan (director) establishes that Sister Bridget loves money and money is what personifies Sister Bridget. (Ah, but this proves to be her undoing in the end.)

What's in a Name?
Sister Bridget proceeds to ask the three girls for their names. When it is Rose's turn, Sister Bridget informs her that they already have a Rose and that she should find herself another name. A person's name is his mark in this world. It is the essence of a person's individuality. The girls try to articulate their identity (= articulate self), but this is promptly dismissed by 'the power that be'/Sister Bridget/B**ch from Hell(= not be part of social process).

**Nice soundbyte: "There is no known culture that does not use the pronoun 'I' and which does not therefore have a conception of self and personhood. -Chris Barker, Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice

Another inmate of the asylum, Crispina also experienced the same thing. There is a connection between Rose/Patricia and Crispina as they both had babies out of wedlock. When Crispina introduces herself to Rose/Patricia, she tells Patricia that her name means 'girl with the curly hair.' (This is odd because Crispina has very short and very straight hair.) She later reveals that the nuns gave her that name.

There is a preoccupation with names in this movie. In a later scene, Bernadette 'seduces' a delivery boy into helping her escape. The boy reluctantly agrees, but ends up backing out, claiming that he didn't even know her name. The girls never introduce themselves to one another and hardly speak to each other.

Every day, they stand in line and wash, dry and press clothes. In one scene, Crispina tosses a piece of clothing to Margaret, telling her that 'she doesn't wash whites.' (Fordist?)

So there they were, without names or families or explanations on what they were doing there. Abandoned, betrayed, forgotten by the very people they trusted and loved.

Like the first Magdalene, these women suffered.
Like Mary Magdalene, these women were misunderstood and written off.

So, is there redemption in the end?
After four years, Margaret's brother rushes into the asylum and "rescues" her. Margaret is in shock, she couldn't believe it was that easy; that all it took was a father or a brother to go there and get her. While packing her bags, her brother tells her to hurry. (Loved this part:) Margaret tells her brother that he has no right to tell her to hurry; that he doesn't know what she had gone through. She shoves her luggage at him and walks ahead.

Eventually, Rose/Patricia and Bernadette also escape. As Rose/Patricia boards the bus, Bernadette's cousin wishes her well, calling her Patricia. Rose/Patricia turns around and tells her that her name is Rose. In the end, Rose/Patricia finally finds the courage to claim her identity and to speak her name.

Peter Mullan presents a stark and vivid image of society's distrust and fear of women in the mid-20th century. There is no effort to glamorize the characters or the situation. It is all done very plainly (hardly any background music), as though the director wants the "truth" to speak for itself.

Is it really the truth? Mullan has been accused of being biased against the Catholic Church (the Vatican has condemned this movie). There were several scenes that showed the nuns in a somewhat sympathetic light: one could see how uneasy and uncomfortable the nuns were while the priest was filming them (to them, acting natural is standing rather stiffly.) Sister Bridget was excited over a movie and cried through it, and in the end, when she had to choose between the key to the front gate or the key to the safe where all her money was, she showed how "weak her flesh" was when she chose the latter.

Bottom line: I'm glad I watched this movie. (I'm still going to Church on Sunday. ^_^)

If you want to know more about the Magdalene Asylums, click here

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