The Magdalene Asylums in Ireland were run by the Sisters of Mercy on behalf of the Catholic Church. Young girls were sent there by families or orphanages and once there, were imprisoned and sent to work in the laundries where they could atone for their sins. Their sins varied from being unmarried mothers to being too pretty, too ugly, simple minded, too clever or being a victim of rape and talking about it. And for their sins they worked 364 days a year unpaid, they were half starved, beaten, humiliated, raped, their children forcibly removed from them. Their sentence was indefinite. Thousands of women lived and died there. The last Magdalene Asylum in Ireland closed in 1996.
The film is from the point of view of four of these young women in the 1960s, an era mistakenly seen by some as a time of unchallenged female liberation. These young Catholic women find themselves in an almost medieval nightmare whilst the outside world tacitly (or in some cases actively) supports a theocratic state. It looks at how their personalities develop for better and for worse in an environment controlled and dominated by celibate women, servants of God, Brides of Christ. In their own ways the girls refuse to be beaten, but what victory is there if they remain imprisoned as little more than slaves? One gets out in a heartbreakingly banal fashion, one is imprisoned in a mental asylum, two finally rebel, run away, escape.
Actor and director Peter Mullan won Venice’s Golden Lion for his powerful story of oppression and rebellion.
Rejected by the National Film School, compact, ginger-haired Scotsman Peter Mullan abandoned his hope of being a film director and opted for the life of a drama teacher instead. After finally outgrowing (at the age of 27) a tendency for self-destructively working himself to exhaustion, which had landed him in the hospital again and again, he made his professional acting debut in the Wildcat Theatre Company’s 1988 Christmas pantomime. More stage work followed, as did film roles in “The Big Man” and Ken Loach’s “Riff-Raff” (both 1990), and by 1994 he was playing a featured role as a thug in Danny Boyle’s “Shallow Grave” and exploring his own filmmaking voice with the short “Close” (thanks to money from Scottish TV). At the precise time the Scottish film industry was starting to take off, Mullan found himself in just the right place, acting in “Braveheart” (1995) as the soldier who says that Mel Gibson is not tall enough to be William Wallace and portraying the dealer who supplies the… read more