Loosely based on James Carney’s book The Playboy and the Yellow Lady (one of the inspirations for Synge’s Playboy of the Western World), director Cathal Black’s Love and Rage is set on the island of Achill at the end of the 19th century. Agnes McDonnell (Greta Scacchi) owns a large estate on the remote island. A tough, determined Englishwoman, the liberated Agnes meets her match in the mysterious James Lyncheaun (Daniel Craig), who persuades her to employ him as her land agent. Despite their class and age differences, Agnes finds herself powerfully drawn to the scheming Lynchehaun and the pair embark on a dangerous affair.
Not noted for his portrayals of strong women, Black (Pigs, Korea) manages here to sympathetically engage with the character of Agnes. ‘One of the things that attracted me to Brian Lynch’s script, says Black, ‘was that it allowed me to examine what can happen when a fiercely independent woman is sexually attracted to a dangerous man, a notion which is part of the dynamic of so called romantic love. I’d like to think that Love and Rage is, in the best sense, a woman’s film.’
Black is also sensitive to the story’s political undercurrents, which surface through the chameleon-like Lynchenaun’s use of his associations with the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Stylistically, this is the director’s most ambitious work to date, with outstanding cinematography by the Polish master Slawomir Idziak, who photographed Krzysztof KieÊlowski’s Three Colours Blue and Ridley Scott’s recent Black Hawk Down. The whole piece lends itself to a full-blown Gothic treatment, which Black fully embraces in the melodramatic climax.Ireland-U.K.-Germany, 1999. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 100 mins.