In the supercharged atmosphere of the abuse scandals, Peter Mullan’s film The Magdalene Sisters is a sensationalist melodrama that only adds fuel to the fire.
The film has just been released nationwide and the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) with its America Needs Fatima campaign is responding by sending “Outrage” protest postcards and emails to Disney/Miramax claiming the film misrepresents and defames the Catholic Church and its institutions.
Through the use of pungent emotionalism and hyperbole, the movie develops a style that becomes hard to classify. It is called a semi-fictionalized true account but the distinction between fiction and reality appear constantly blurred. It is billed as a scathing social commentary but it is laden with stereotyped depictions devoid of any nuance. Its shoddy theology ignores the basics of any kind of Catholic spirituality.
The story is not very pretty. It builds upon the actual existence of what were essentially Catholic reformatories for young women in Ireland. However, the tragedy normally associated with delinquency is magnified and dramatized beyond recognition. The self-righteous sisters are turned into what the director termed “Taliban militants.”
Indeed Mr. Mullan’s portrayal of the Catholic reformatory could not be more merciless. He treats the sisters with all the cruelty that he imagines they treated the girls under their care. The convent becomes a ruthless slave labor camp complete with its evil warden, sadistic guards and wronged convicts. The Mother Superior is a greedy fiend counting piles of money made from the toil of the unfortunate girls. It is easy to see why Vatican Radio characterized the film as an “angry and rancorous provocation.”
The R-rated movie is also totally unacceptable from a moral viewpoint since it becomes a kind of a porno-documentary which spices up its story with scenes of nudity and implied sexual activity. The script is peppered with sordid language as the actors continuously intermingle obscenities in their dialogue.
In reviewing the script, the American TFP believes that the movie gives viewers the impression that the Catholic religion is absurd and irrational, and that the Church forms people who are sadistic, immoral and unbalanced. Even worse, this characterization seems to extend to anyone who believes in a defined moral code that the director might label stringently moralistic.
“I was appalled to read how every nun, priest or person in authority was presented as evil,” commented America Needs Fatima director Robert Ritchie who is coordinating the protest. “It seems to ignore all the good that nuns have done throughout the centuries.”
On the contrary, the girls are presented as victim-saints, setting the stage for a classical face off between these innocent victims and a hopelessly corrupt and hypocritical system. The rave reviews the movie has received indicate Mr. Mullan’s politically correct pseudo-documentary is being accepted as Gospel truth.
The American TFP is asking Catholics all over the country to add their voice to protest what it considers crass distortions and porno-depictions. Tens of thousands of “Outrage” protest cards addressed to Miramax, the film’s American distributor, have already been sent out.
The above opinion is based on numerous reviews of the film and the script sent by Miramax to the America Needs Fatima campaign.