THE ABDUCTION CLUB
2002, UK/Ireland, 96 minutes, Colour.
Alice Evans, Daniel Lapaine, Sophia Myles, Matthew Rhys, Liam Cunningham, Edward Woodward, Patrick Malahide.
Directed by Stefan Schwartz.
The Abduction Club is an 18th century romp. This kind of film was popular in the late '50s and early '60s with films like The Gypsy and the Gentleman and culminating in the success of Tom Jones. However, it also is a throwback to the glossy costume melodramas of the Gainsborough Studios of the early '40s, The Man in Grey, Fanny by Gaslight.
The setting is County Waterford in 1780. The focus is on the aristocracy, especially the young women who are eligible for marriage with their fortunes for dowries. It also focuses on the impoverished young men of Irish aristocratic families. Their solution to their problem is to abduct the women of their hearts' desires. As the film shows, many happy marriages are formed in this way rather than the cold and arranged marriages that wealthy parents desire.
The film is robust in its presentation of the young men and especially the two sisters who are abducted. It also shows some of the politics of the time, the English repression of the Irish, the tough people who went from Ireland to the Americas.
Daniel Lapaine (Muriel's Wedding) and Matthew Rhys (Titus, Very Annie Mary) are the two central young men who abduct the two sisters who are played with verve by Alice Evans and Sophia Myles. In support are the character actors Liam Cunningham as a vengeful wealthy man who wants to marry the younger sister, Edward Woodward as Lord Fermoy, the authority from Dublin, and Patrick Malahide as Sir Miles, the patron of the abduction club.
It is all very colourful, slight, a glimpse into an aspect of Irish history to be enjoyed rather than to be pondered seriously.
1. The Irish setting? The 18th century? Re-creation of the period, costumes, decor, manners?
2. Irish society, the wealthy, the poor, prospects for prosperity? The choices for the younger sons of aristocratic families, priesthood or marrying into a wealthy family?
3. The tone of the film, the touch of the rollicking? Human? Serious?
4. The Abduction Club, the patron and his advocating of behaviour? His character?
5. The authorities, the significance of the Lord, overseeing situations, the touch of the permissive?
6. Garrett and James, younger sons, their prospects, their decisions? The decision to marry? Their personalities, charm, the touch of the reckless?
7. The Kennedy girls, the decision to abduct Catherine? Garrett, his love? Catherine, her personality, her family and place? Her being unwilling to go? Wanting to return home? The contrast with Anne, younger, eager to be away? The relationship with James?
8. The abduction itself, the manner, leaving the village, keeping the girls? The interactions over the time, Catherine and her change of heart, Garrett and his attitude, James and Anne, falling in love?
9. Mr Power, his character, older, a suitor for Catherine, his pursuit of Catherine, his soldiers, taking them to confront the young men?
10. The resolution, the return home, marriages? Abduction sometimes being more effective than arranged marriages?
11. The comic touches, the men and the touches of the Irish rake, yet the serious issues for Irish society at the time?