The Magdalene Sisters

The Devil Says

See It

(And see the difference between evil and sin)

The sisters are mine! I don't mean that, as I generally do when I say similar words, that they are influenced by me or loved by me.  I mean they belong in the deepest pit of Hell where I will dole out vengeance and justice, which are the same in this case, for all eternity.  I mean that they are not sinners, but are evil.  That their corroded souls make them ugly in ways that leprosy can't approach.

I am greatly distressed to say that The Magdalene Sisters is based on real events. For over two hundred years the Magdalene asylums operated in Ireland. They were Catholic-run institutions that took in "fallen" women of all kinds and used them as slave labor. This miserable existence was supposed to give the girls a chance to work off their sins, or at least keep them from committing more.   And what were these sins? Initially, prostitution, but later, anything sexual, real or perceived. Girls were locked up for having sex out of wedlock; horrible, but not surprising in a religious country. But also talking out of turn, acting willfully, looking too pretty, being retarded, and even being raped were offenses. Families sent the girls away (to protect their honor) and nuns kept them incarcerated. Few things have inspired more brutality than religion, but honor is one of those things.  When both are in play, humans display what evil sons-of-bitches they can be.  The girls were beaten and abused in every way conceivable, and some were never released.  Thirty-thousand women experienced this torture and the last of these Hell holes (and I know a Hell hole when I see one) was finally shut down in 1996.  I'll repeat that: 1996

What is wrong with you?  This is your world.  I don't run it.  I inspire, suggest, and occasionally enlighten, but I do not control it.  You do.  Mortals.  And you let this kind of thing happen.  And keep happening till only a few years ago.  Damn!  Anyone over the age of thirty should be ashamed.  And pissed off. There's plenty of blame to go around: families who betrayed their children, citizens who would jeer at the girls as immoral, politicians who turned a blind eye, priests who molested the girls, and the nuns, who acted as jailers. And let's not forget you, who are reading this if you were old enough to have done something.

There are survivors.  Many don't talk about what happened to them, but some have told their stories, and those accounts form the basis of the film.  It follows three girls, Rose, an unwed mother, Margaret, a victim of rape, and Bernadette, an attractive girl that boys are drawn to.  All three are sent against their will to a Magdalene laundry.  They work from dawn to dusk, live in bleak surroundings, are rarely allowed to speak, are whipped, and even forced to strip so the nuns can laugh at them. Their tale is unrelentingly harsh.  It is not a fairy tale where good triumphs.

While this is a movie about evil, there are some opportunities for sin, primarily Surrogate Cruelty and Lust.  If you can find some satisfaction in this film, if you can feel sexual excitement gazing at the nude bodies of the girls as they are being psychologically abused, or if you can satisfy your baser sadistic instincts when a girl is beaten, then more power to you.  I applaud your ability to gather pleasure wherever you can, and after all, this is a movie.  It cannot harm the real people who suffered.

I, however, cannot enjoy what is on display.  I am the definer of sin, but evil trumps sin, and I've seen few other films that so perfectly present evil. Yeah, sometimes you need to watch something not for the enjoyment of sinning, but to understand what is wrong in the world, which means in this case, understanding the cruelty that took away the ability of so many women to live, love, and sin.  What happened is too great an offense for me to feel anything but anger and hatred.  The movie is brilliant in every way: acting, directing, production design. It may not be fun, but it is effective. You will empathize with these girls and if you have a drop of anything good in you, you too will get angry.

The Magdalene Sisters is a movie which can change what you do with your life.  I wish I could state that it wasn't important, but there are people who are trying to ignore what happened, and therefore, allow it to happen again.  The Catholic church condemned the film as being anti-Catholic, though it did not deny the events it portrays. I wonder just what they think would be a proper pro-Catholic statement when discussing their involvement in the torture of young girls.

The only thing that makes me smile while watching this film is the knowledge that most of the nuns, priests, family members, etc., who were responsible are dead, and the rest will be soon (relatively speaking). And none of them will find themselves entering into any kind of paradise.  I feel no mercy, and they are not worthy of forgiveness. 

Sins (What does this mean?)

Pride The girls often don't have enough—the nuns and their families rip it away from them—and everyone else has far too much.
Sloth If only the girls had a chance to enjoy sloth.
Avarice The girls have nothing.  It's easy to see the value of greed (and being able to satisfy it) when you see its opposite.
Gluttony Again, something that is only a dream.
Aesthetics Nada. 
Surrogate Cruelty Beatings, humiliation, imprisonment. Few will find any of this fun.
Thought Much here to think about, but even more to feel.
Humor You may not laugh for days.
Lust A line a naked girls. A priest pushes himself on a mentally incompetent girl.  Chances are you won't find it sexy.  

Buy It


Film Info

Writer/Director: Peter Mullan

Cast: DAnne-Marie Duff, Nora-Jane Noone, Dorothy Duffy, Eileen Walsh, Geraldine McEwan

Runtime: 119 min