Sadly this adorable movie hasn't got a category of its own here (yet) and if I'm correct there only exist two or three fanfictions about it. So it's about high time to change this. I don't know whether most people simply don't know about it or whether they don't like it, either way it's my favourite movie and I fell in love with it a long time ago. Recently I watched it again (always cheers me up at hard times) and decided to spread the love that is Anne and Strang. Sadly there's no online version of it any more (I could only find one in French on Dailymotion, if someone else knows another, please tell me so.).:( So rag your libraries and video rentals, guys, because this movie is definitely worth it. If you love comedy, romance and adventure this is definitely a gem. To make things worse (it's definitely some kind of conspiracy) the DVD's only available in European and New Zealandish (wtf) format on (and VHS). I'll try to upload it on YouTube, but I don't know whether they will not delete it at once (has anyone some experience with this type of thing?). Anyways, if you know the movie or simply like a good piece of period fluff, enjoy the ride.:)
Short prologue if you don't know the movie: it's set in Ireland, 1780. Younger brothers, who didn't inherit anything by law, joined so called "abduction clubs". They would abduct young heiresses and a man then had one night to propose to the lady. If she agreed they would be married on the spot, if not she would be brought back to her family by morning. Now this movie is about Garret Byrne (Daniel Lapaine) and James Strang (Matthew Rhys), who are both part of such an Abduction Club. It's Byrne's turn to abduct wealthy Catherine Kennedy (Alice Evans) but things go wrong from the moment Strang decides to simply bring her sister Anne (Sophia Miles) along. They are being chased by John Power, Anne's (old) suitor and have to flee all over the country.
Love's Labour's Lost
„Well, that went well."
Anne grinned smugly, pleased with her work (i.e. Mr Powers lying unconsciously on the table). She didn't know who the gentleman in front of her was, but seeing that he was the only one in the room whom she could address, she had directed her irony towards him.
He grinned right back at her, albeit rather sheepishly. When he took off the mask, it was like a magical transformation. Instead of a mysterious, noble knight there suddenly stood one James Strang, known to her as boring, rude and anything but mysterious.
And then it clicked.
They're one and the same person.
Anne was so baffled, she couldn't utter a word (something that occurred very rarely, as her sister constantly reminded her). Instead she simply mirrored his fond expression of wonder and insecurity.
After a while the old, witty Anne resurfaced though.
„You could have told me that earlier."
„Nah, you wouldn't have believed me," he shot back promptly, as if he had only waited for an opening remark.
„Why, if you had told me „Miss Anne, tonight at precisely 9 pm I will abduct you", I would have prepared accordingly with a pistol at the ready in my cleavage."
Strang flushed slightly but decided to concentrate on his uppermost confusion.
„Abduct? But this is Byrne's abduction, he came for your sister, as you might have noticed and I'm only here to-"
It hit him like jumping through a window. Why didn't he think of it earlier? This was his chance!
But then he looked at Anne and realised that he had strung the falsest of chords. Although covering it up with a lofty eyebrow-raising, he could see hurt glittering in the corner of her eyes.
Well done, Strang, you killed the perfect plan the moment you conceived it.
„I mean, considering what you did with Powers here, do you think I'm foolish enough to try and carry you off against your will?"
„I never said it would be against my will," she retorted with honest simplicity and piercing eyes that clearly stated You failed epically.
Strang gulped and nervously fiddled with the mask in his hand. Try as he might, he couldn't make any sense of this girl.
In one second she threatens me with pistols and cleavages and in the next she tells me she wants to be abducted. How is anyone supposed to understand that?
Strang's motto always had been to run when in doubt, and never had he felt more unsure of what to do than now.
I already messed it up enough, no need to stay and make it worse. Maybe it'll be my turn next and then I can suggest her and prepare accordingly.
„I'll leave you to your...pistols then. Maybe you're lucky and someone else shows up tonight on whom you can practise aiming."
Anne opened her mouth, seemingly to protest, but Strang never knew that for sure because the moment he turned his back on her was the one that Power chose to make himself heard.
They both froze and stared at him in shock. Several seconds passed, but Power's eyes remained closed and he did not stir again.
Sharing an inevitable look of relief, Strang caught a glimpse of despair in her eyes. Even though his mind told him to run for the hills because desperate people always did desperate, crazy things; his heart just wondered whether it really could be this girl's fate to have to marry this man. It began to beat faster at once.
Next thing he knew was that his chance for escape had past irretrievably, for Anne suddenly clung to his arm with a death-grip.
"You can't leave me here! When he wakes up he'll drag me home and lock me up to make sure the same doesn't happen to me! Besides," she added as an afterthought, "you can't just carry off my sister and expect me to calmly stay here and wave her goodbye."
"No one will harm your sister and she'll be back tomorrow morning, I promise."
His tone was soft as he carefully untangled her fingers from the fabric over his upper arm.
She just kept staring at him the way she had stared at Power a few moments ago. Only that it was completely different. Was that hope shimmering up to him?
"You know, it's against the club's rules to abduct sisters."
Her eyes grew wide with fear but before it could turn to disappointment, he added:
"But I guess I can make an exception here. Due to, uuh, special circumstances. It's a case of emergency, so to speak."
That sheepish grin she already associated with him found its way back to his lips. This time she not only reflected it but let it grow into a happy whoop.
"Oh, I promise you won't regret it!"
She was actually bouncing up and down and had resumed the arm-lock of death.
"Calm down or you'll wake him!"
His remonstration was audibly and obviously less than half-hearted, he laughed too much for that.
So she topped it off with twirling around him, swooshing his pony-tail in the process and grabbing the mask from his hand.
"Look, now I'm one of you."
Strang couldn't help but admit that the mask really suited her. He was glad though that she wasn't an equivalent of what they were, because then she'd be looking out for a good-looking heir and not be running off with a penniless lad.
Another groan from Power was their cue for a quick exit, or else they might have stood there gazing shyly at each other for ages.
Making their way through the dark cellar rooms they got lost several times (which caused a lot of giggling) before they finally found themselves outside in the cold moonlight.
Anne shivered in her thin dress and headed straight towards the lonely horse at the other side of the court.
When Strang reached her, she looked rather forlorn to his surprise.
"There's only one horse," she stated in involuntary obviousness.
"You wanted a real abduction, didn't you?"
He mounted the horse and held his hand out to her, all the while smiling broadly.
"Now here's your chance."
Trying to come up with another solution and ending up with none, Anne frowned deeply at him through the slits of the mask before reluctantly placing her hand in his.
Hoisting her up smoothly in front of him, he couldn't suppress a smug comment.
She snorted right into his face.
"As much as possible when being seated in front of a moron."
He laughed out loud and spurred the horse. They rode off into the night and Anne felt like riding right into adventure. She didn't know whether that was wise but it sure felt right. She knew that Catherine would disapprove; she knew that her father would be shocked. And if her mother were still here she'd be furious.
But none of them can hold me down any more. I'll go my own way and make my own experiences.
After some ten minutes of mute riding Anne's adventurous spirit had considerably lost in vigour. Her limbs began to become numb and stiff from the cold and unchanging physical position. It started in her feet and hands and climbed up through her legs and arms until her whole body felt like an unbending block of wood.
Against her will her head inclined towards Strang's chest. It was like fighting to fall asleep. No matter how often she jerked herself up, her body would always give in to gravity in the end. Or warmth in this case.
Getting tired additionally to cold, she finally gave in.
He doesn't seem to notice any way, she assured herself, risking a quick glance upwards.
Another ten minutes later her eyelids began to droop and her hands around his neck to slacken. The biting night wind had long turned into a monotonous rush in her ears and it started to fade away in front of the suddenly close beating of his heart. The realisation that this was the most calming and steadying sound she had ever heard came over her like the night over the trees.
Lifting her eyes in dreamlike effort she watched the dark shadows fly by. Every branch seemed to wave a silent salutation to her and every towering fir appeared like an enchanted troll, quivering with anticipation to uproot themselves and wander about the still land. Forest turned to field and she fancied that the softly bending ears were nodding their heads in graceful greeting.
Those were her last more or less coherent thoughts after which she got lost in a mixture of childhood memories, fleeting images of the evening and fantastical dream shapes.
After what had felt like only one short moment of inattention, Anne was radically awoken from her state of peaceful slumber by Strang abruptly stopping the horse.
"What the- what's going on?" She mumbled, stuck somewhere between shock and sleepiness.
He looked at her as if he instantly regretted what he had done but didn't voice it out loud. Instead he simply took off his heavy coat and silently offered it to her.
Maybe she was still too much in dream-mode or maybe she just didn't want to let him get away so easily. So she didn't stir a bit except for her eyebrows doing some admirable acrobatics.
He cringed uncomfortably and looked anywhere but into her eyes.
"I thought you might be cold."
Not knowing whether to be impressed by his consideration or to be appalled by the fact that this had only crossed his mind after a considerable amount of time, Anne settled for a weird crossover between a laugh and a groan.
He gave her a funny look but decided it to be wiser not to comment on that highly difficult to interpret exclamation.
Starting to feel the chilling air more than ever in her still sleepy limbs, Anne grabbed the cloak and tried to put it on while still holding her balance. She nearly fell off the horse.
"Should I assist-"
Strang began, but by now Anne had managed to somehow fumble her arms into the obstinate piece of clothing. She hissed fretfully at his offer and began to button herself up in an even more impatient fashion.
"How much longer is it any way?" She asked to break the silence, which started to embarrass her.
"Not much. We're almost there."
Anne harrumphed loudly at this, pretty sure that he was only trying to appease her.
After having finished with the last button, she noticed to her horror that she had missed one and was wearing the coat completely askew. However, seeing that she was more than just a little tired and frustrated by now and counting on the darkness to hide this little detail, she didn't say anything and instead looked up expectingly.
"What are you waiting for? Let's go!"
A slight twitch of the left corner of his mouth clearly indicated displeasure at her tyrannical tone, but instead of shooting something back at her, Strang just pursed his lips and continued their headless ride.
He was more fun at the race, Anne thought pettishly. She had felt like she had finally found someone who argued back. Someone who took what she said serious. Someone who respected her. But now she wasn't so sure any more if this someone really was the man staring determinedly ahead the road now.
I thought he was different – but what if he's just as ignorant and boring as Power?
Anne sighed and wrapped the grey coat closer around her still shivering body. It was very heavy and the fabric very rough (maybe Byrne doesn't pay him enough after all), but she could feel his warmth beginning to emanate to her. Besides she liked how it smelled. Not that she thought that he smelled good. It was just the general scent of adventure and freedom. Which, apparently, was quite similar to dirt and sweat.
Strang had been right however, they reached the club house (an old, abandoned ruin) in less than a quarter of an hour.
"There we are. Miss Kennedy?"
He had stopped the horse and jumped off in one swift motion and was now awaiting her with open arms and an expectant expression.
She hesitated once more, just as she had done before getting up. Being waited upon and treated like a helpless damsel in distress didn't agree to her at all. She was about to take the leap down herself when she remembered how she had spoken to him just a few minutes ago and his disappointed face.
Maybe he thought I was something I'm not, too.
Anne frowned and contemplated this for a while. Since when had all these expectations built up between them? For heaven's sake, she had talked to this man for five minutes!
Trying to forget about all of that and simply go with the moment, she relaxed and let herself fall. Unfortunately Strang had also chosen the very same second to let go and lowered his arms. Thus she fell down upon him rather uncomfortably (to put it mildly) and they almost landed on the floor.
"Oof!" He exclaimed indignantly, causing her to laugh at his comically shocked grimace. It wasn't long until both were doubling over with mirth.
"You should have warned me!" He finally brought out between fits of giggles and chuckling.
Anne grinned triumphantly.
"Just like you warned us about your abduction plans?"
He didn't reply but his eyes glowed with overflowing affection. Anne was suddenly very aware of the fact that his hands were placed at her sides and hers were resting (very comfortably) upon his chest. She could feel his heart again, beating steadily against her frozen palm like a fluttering bird.
Interruption of the tender moment came in form of John Knox, even less welcome than usually to Strang.
"Where have you been? Byrne's inside, half your brother-in-law already, I bet."
He received a frown from both of them, Anne's doubting and Strang's annoyed.
Nevertheless they untangled each other and made their way into the hall, which was resounding with cheer and laughter.
Knox went in ahead of them, playing the herald and obviously enjoying Strang's leap of faith concerning the club's rules.
The first thing Anne noticed was the wave of heat that came crushing down upon her. The blood shot back into her fingers and toes, seemingly boiling her from the inside. There were stained paintings on the walls, falling apart on the sooty wallpaper. She hoped they had a bed for her in a better state (for her lust for adventure didn't encompass adventurous sleeping arrangements, or food quality for that matter.).
"...Gentlemen, a toast to our guest. Miss-"
They heard Byrne exclaim enthusiastically when he suffered the same fate as his best friend and was rudely interrupted by Knox.
"Anne Kennedy!" He jeered.
Everyone turned around in surprise and stared at the newly arrived trio.
Mostly at me though, Anne realised.
The sudden silence was even more absolute in contrast to the sanguine atmosphere that had pervaded the crowded room only seconds before.
"How old are you, child?" an elder gentlemen who seemed to be in some position of authority directed himself at Anne.
She didn't like that last bit at all and replied rather snappishly:
"She's seventeen," Catherine opposed matter-of-factly.
Goddammit, why must she stab me in the back like that? Anne shot metaphorical daggers at her sister who looked back just as reproachfully.
"Strang," the elder man spoke again, adopting the tone of a rather exasperated teacher. "taking a girl of under eighteen is against the club rules."
Well, this is news! He only mentioned the sister-rule.
"Yes...your rules, Sir Miles. Not mine."
Anne glanced at the man standing beside her who seemed to wrestle a similar dagger-fight with his mentor.
"Rules which have served this club well for over fifty years. Now you will take this young lady back now and you will offer your apology to her family." It was no suggestion.
The ridiculousness of the situation, the annoyance at the thought of getting back out into the cold and new admiration for his decision to take her with him; all mingled in Anne's eyes as she smiled up at Strang.
He surprised her once more though with his next decision.
"No, I don't think I will."
it was spoken with calm determination and open stubbornness.
A collective gasp went through the crowd – the provocation in the air was tangible.
Something like sadness went over the old man's face.
"James Strang – you are expelled from the club."
Strang's face was stoical but she knew that this must be a big blow for him. She didn't know much about these abduction clubs but apparently young men joined them in order to find a wife and secure their future. Why would he give up all of that – just because she had asked him to take her with him?
The atmosphere got even tenser when the complete club was given the choice to either leave or be dispelled too. They all shot Strang pitiful and some angry looks. In the end there only remained a handful of men plus Byrne with Catherine standing next to him. She was apparently very pleased with the turn of events and expecting to be brought home in no time.
But as it seemed Byrne could be just as stubborn as his supposed servant. He too seemed to prefer to be expelled than to give up on Catherine.
Honestly, Anne mused while rolling her eyes. It's so obvious that he sees more in her than just a big prize. How can't she notice the way he looks at her.
"Mister Byrne", she addressed her sister's suitor, "Do you allow all of your servants to behave like this?"
She grinned up at Strang as if saying come on, the situation is in dire need of some lightheartedness.
"I'm not a servant," he replied, looking at her without moving so much as an eyelash.
Well, that went well.
She watched in confusion as Byrne let out his frustration on his not-servant before leading Catherine to a room upstairs. Strang still didn't react though, it was as if all of his courage had been used up when opposing Sir Miles. Eventually he only nodded and swallowed, apparently agreeing with his comrade's insults.
Anne tried to suppress the smile that wanted to come out in spite of her. This was completely surreal, she had no idea what would happen next – and yet it was the best thing that had ever happened to her.
Catherine held out her hand to her sister. It was obvious that, if she couldn't bring her home she at least wanted to protect her.
Squaring her shoulders she walked up to the staircase but pointedly ignored her sister's hand. She had humiliated her enough this evening. Not before she had given Strang a last challenging look though.
If he goes through all of this trouble to get some time alone with me, I'm curious to hear what he'll come up with to win my heart.