Every once in a while when I blog about a film I say something like, “I’ve never seen a film this baffling!” I have seen a lot of those movies; it is both a joy and a horror that I keep finding more of them to say this about.

Though in this case, we’re not talking simply about ill-advised productions the world can do without, or pulpy-mess hilarity. We are talking about a movie that has been scripted, cast, performed, and edited at Full Baffle, so that during the course of 100 minutes, you are confused about what is going on for 95 minutes, and the other 5 minutes are scenes of your lead dude raping someone! GOOD TIMES. (Trigger warning: discussion of rape below.)

I tweeted this face as a reaction shot. That still feels pretty solid.

Ostensibly, this is a movie that examines the intersection of British and Irish politics at the turn of the century, charts the life of a feminist woman in hostile times, and presents a psychopath with nuance and subtlety. In execution, this movie looked at the list of things it wanted to accomplish, then tore it into twenty pieces and gleefully hurled it into the air as they started shooting whatever they felt like.

Is it a disturbing movie? See above! Is it, entirely by accident, possessed of the sort of Lynchian surrealism that renders it oddly compelling? Sort of! Is it so baffling that an attempt to lay it out for a friend has turned it into this blog post? I think we all know the answer to that.

Let’s talk about Love and Rage.

This DVD cover contains 150% less Technicolor filtering than the film, and also makes it seem like the movie might be atmospheric or intense, a theory which I think we are all about to blow wide open. Also that’s not the house in the movie. Also they Photoshopped out his Ronald McDonald dye job. Also, we’re in for a gem.

Nutshell: in 1890something, a British lady landowner in Ireland hires Daniel Craig as her new land agent/groundskeeper, which she initially thinks is awesome because he’s like 100 times hotter than the old agent, but which she grows to realize is a mistake because he is also 100 times more violently bizarre than her old agent, and also his accent is terrible.

Things decline.

But not to start with! To start with it’s a flashback from a dour house in mourning to delightful Irish party on the beach, just chock full of the local Irish, taking Irish advantage of the hilarious funtimes, like Hit the Barrel Man (actual thing, there is a sign to let you know and everything)!

And our lead, Agnes the Yellow Lady, is having a blast watching that dude get hit repeatedly with huge sticks hurled at speed, because delightful! She is going to suffer later, and this is a very weird setup that seems to be trying to make us dislike her so that it will seem as if she somehow had it coming, which is always a sign of a quality film, am I right?

The gent on her right is a doctor, and he is making the face we will all be making a lot.

These two, who seem to know each other but also he might be new to the island and also perhaps new to Ireland in general because his accent is indeterminate because the excellent Stephen Dillane was not told what the script even was until it was too late, head back toward her house. (In par-for-the-course editing, at some point Dr. Dillane vanishes, but we don’t know when!) Back home, she dismisses her maid Independently and fiddle-dee-dees through a meeting with her land agent while telling him she won’t charge peasants for taking sod for their roofs from her property, because Stout Kindness. He grumbles. She reminds him she is very Headstrong!

But you know how headstrong women can be – lonely! Get that possibly-gay doctor back over here for a sleepover! See if some sex business will happen!


*falling biplane noises*

Nope.

Well, now her prospects really are slim! Where, where will she find a manly, attractive man who will sweep her off her feet by being a complete asshole?

BINGO.

(This is from the scene where she met him in the woods and asked why he was poaching rabbits, which in theory is an interesting setup for an exploration of the political underpinnings, but good luck. “Who do you think you are?” she asks, at which point he replies, “I know who I am,” and in short order, “I’m the master of meself,” so this is the level of repartee and thematic coherence we’re dealing with throughout.)

We walk through a subplot in which he tries to rent out some of the estate outbuildings, and start a grocery store, and ingratiate himself into the household. To signal that the old agent’s time in the household is coming to an end, we get this:

Welp, the housemaid has spoken, because you definitely remember the part of history where housemaids had the last word, right?

The estate agent gets angry and has a meeting with three dudes in the woods! He hands them a STACK of cash. Get rid of her, he says! Make her know she’s unwelcome!

How they spent that truly sizeable sum:

This sack of grain items, and “Go Home” painted in tiny, dark, unfilmable letters on the pole beside it. TENSION. Extremely low-impact Comic Sans-font tension!

Still, better make the best of things, and Agnes the Yellow Lady (“The people think you’re made of gold,” the maid explains, to which she nods sagely instead of saying, “But that doesn’t even make sense.”) takes the maid out to the apparently nonstop Irish-person party out on the beach, where Dr. Dillane is cutting a RUG.

Also at this party is Daniel Craig, who gets a look at Maid, which is important to set up so that that night he can sneak into the house, which we establish is always unlocked, and rape Maid. GOOD, THANKS, HELPFUL.

Agnes, who doesn’t know anything has happened, finds herself chatting with him more often, because the script makes her. At first it’s all business, and he tells her to sign all her contracts on top of the stamp, which seems random, but we’ll get there.

Then things get personal. She explains she and her husband are separated because of their differing interests. “I’m in love with horses,” she says. “He’s in love with centaurs.” “Centaurs?” Daniel Craig asks, speaking for all of us.

They have a very labored metaphor deconstruction about how it’s the MAN that makes a CENTAUR interesting, so what she’s saying is that he was into GUYS. (Imaginary guys? What is this? There was no other Victorian metaphor available to them?)

Eventually, thank god, they end up chatting about him instead. He was an actor! He was apparently very good at it, despite this being typical of his disguises:

No one recognizes this out of town Reverend! Agnes thinks this is hysterical! She laughs so hard she has to run out of church to laugh even harder! Super sad music plays for literally zero contextual reason! A nearby horse edges warily away from her, trying to distance itself from this movie.

While contemplating this hysterical and/or sad time, she has the following conversation with her maid: “I’ve decided I’ll risk it.” “Risk what?” “Ugh, make the tea.” This movie’s biggest plot twist is that the maid does not poison her.

Meanwhile, Daniel Craig meets the men from the woods! They want him to make an oath that he’s loyal to them! (They’re the Irish Republican Brotherhood. This is the only time that it matters.) “Oats is for horses,” he growls. They threaten Agnes. He doesn’t care. A bird screeches throughout this scene, often over the dialogue of the actors, but this movie only had the money for one take, so just let it wash out the dialogue and do everyone a favor.

Thus emboldened, I guess, he visits the house in the character of Horny Foppy Guy, and we all know where this goes.


[You did not want an actual scene of them making out. Trust me on this. They are…off-putting.]

Now it’s the portion of the film where they have sex a lot! There is the usual very bizarre thing where a guy is totally into a woman until he has sex with her, at which point she loses her entire personality and becomes a sex-crazed barnacle, which is a mistake this movie makes but is certainly not alone in making. She also makes the super fun character choice to never ask why Maid is suddenly super hateful about Daniel Craig and is crying all the time. WONDERFUL. Also he tattled on her about not signing the stamps to the government and she’s being fined. (Actual plot point. At least we circled back? I can’t even.)

This fine cinema continues, and the tides thus quickly turn, until she’s stuck sitting at home waiting for someone to invent a telephone she can wait beside.

We can sum this up by using the establishing shot for one of their sex scenes:

Actual, literal establishing shot. If you told me this film was a diabolical, surreal deconstruction of the romantic-drama myth as a bunch of shit starring rapists and their brainwashed victims, I would believe you based on the placement of this shot alone. Also, that would make this movie a lot more interesting.

As it is, the only interesting thing we discover in the entire course of this romantic pursuit is that he’s two timing her!

Dr. Dillane, I didn’t know you were into centaurs!

Maybe that’s a setup to make us think he’s creepy (thanks, movie, conflating homosexual activity and villainy is awesome). To make up for being slightly creepy, Daniel Craig suggests a romantic getaway on the mainland, and when Agnes shows up, he pulls out the bulletproof Reverend disguise, gets wasted, becomes SUPER creepy, and rapes her as she cries. WELL. I think the He Sucks base is pretty well covered!

Oh, what’s that you said? You wanted him to kill some dogs so we’re double sure he’s bad news? Well, balls to you too, movie!

Also at some point the dudes in the forest try to kill the old land agent, for no clear reason and with no resolve, because this movie could not be less interested in presenting a coherent narrative arc to you, and these scenes are just to distract you from how bad Daniel Craig’s Irish accent is.

Dr. Dillane is back! He runs Gay Best Friend interference and fires/breaks up with Daniel Craig for her. Daniel Craig reminds him there was a time the two of them shared sexual activities. Then he leaves. Dillane and Agnes stand around silently, trying hard not to look right into the camera and say, “Seriously, what the hell is happening, though.”

Agnes packs up all her things, announces to everyone that she’s leaving in the morning, and decides to spend one last night alone in her house with just her maid and not her doctor friend or anything because once you tell an abusive dude to get out of your life he definitely respects those boundaries and never tries to come back and punish you or reassert control or anything.

Wait, nope, sorry.

Actual shot from the scene in which he tries to convince her to take him back. The emotional toll of this movie would probably have been a lot higher if it had been made at all competently. As it is, the extensive use of Headboard Cam renders it both awful AND baffling.

Anyway, she cracks him on the head and runs for it and they end up facing off in the barn as it burns down, and then they cut away amid screaming, and you think, That is awful, but at least this movie is trying to spare us the specifics of the grossness that happened.

WAIT, NOPE, SORRY. Turns out Dr. Dillane ends up reading a full list of her injuries at trial, and aside from being sexually violated with some things we are not even going into, he tore an eye out (what) and bit her nose off (WHAT).

The frame-story newspaper exposition shot tells us America refused to extradite him after he escaped there (subplot not shown!), but now he’s escaped, and after he makes out with a woman on the local train who is holding a baby (actual thing), he shows up at the house where Agnes is still living.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS, MOVIE.

Nope, we are not kidding! He’s really there! Wonderful.

However, Agnes has had enough of this bullshit from this movie! As he shrieks into the darknes about how he’s immortal, she shoots the shit out of him.

Nothing here is even an okay thing.

As we stand there waiting to see if her bullet has hit an organ or anything, he runs away, and then we fade out and plinky record music plays because who even wants closure on that other plot, I guess, and when we fade back up, things are happening! For sure, we’ll get some wrap-up on all the events that –

Huh.

I mean, Dr. Dillane is still around and I’d love to see their friendship, and I’d like to know how the judicial politics shook out about –

Or, she could fall in love with her maid, I guess?

But you know how sometimes the part you think is the most baffling really isn’t? And the concluding titles pop up to inform us that Agnes lived the rest of her life in that house, and Daniel Craig was never seen again, and then you get a terrible feeling, and in dawning horror you crack open your browser, and it turns out this movie you have assumed is a bizarre and repellent figment of someone’s imagination is based on a real event and then you slowly close the window and make this face for the rest of your life?

Yeah, me too.