War is never a pleasant thing to those living it, but once you are involved, there is never any running away. War will follow you. War will be a part of your life in one way or another until the day you die. One week after being in the army, young Tom is being told what happens to cowards, draft dodgers, and deserters by a superior officer. It would be enough to scare most adults out of their wits, much less a young man already terrified by the circumstances he finds himself in. Then the shelling begins, and nothing will ever be the same again. Tom freezes, as most would do in a panic situation, and then he runs. When the commander tries to stop him, Tom fights free. He has lost all pretense of thought and is running on survival instincts only. Those instincts run extremely strong in Tom. While on his headlong flight through the forest, Tom trips over a young woman and flips through the air to land on his back. Terror and shock combine to the point where he quits breathing, and the young lady saves his life. Wrapping him in a warm blanket and lying beside him for the remainder of the night, she gives him a beacon of hope and goodness in his messed-up life.
When morning comes, Jessie is called away by her father, the leader of a band of gypsies. Tom watches as they depart, his heart so obviously in his mouth. When next he meets the gypsies, Tom is wearing a dress and is mistaken for a girl — a mad one at that. A ‘Rawney’ as the leader of the band, Darky, refers to him. To the Rom, a ‘rawney’ is not simply mad, but ‘magic mad.’ A ‘rawney’ can do anything that YOU believe he or she can. They are ‘gifted’ in ways mere mortals cannot understand. Tom brings a mix of good luck and bad to the gypsy band, nothing that perhaps would not have happened without his presence, but it makes for some very interesting plot twists. Fate has a funny way of making things turn out as it wishes, and even a ‘rawney’ cannot change that.
This movie is well worth the rental cost. It had me thinking, very hard in places, while it sent my emotions on a roller-coaster ride. I watched it twice, and will rent it again to see if my own outlook changes at all. Or, if maybe I can find something new in it at a different time in my own life.
Written and directed by Bob Hoskins, who also plays Darky, it is a look into a far different way of life. Six of the songs in the soundtrack are originals, written and composed by John Tams, of the Albion Band and Sharpe’s Rifles fame. “The Wedding Song” is just a phenomenal piece of work, in a “Blowzabella-esque” way, maybe because band member Jo Freya collaborated on the music for the film. Indeed, some incarnation of Blowzabella may have actually been playing during the wedding festival scene.
But the musical number that really stays with me is the “Funeral Lament” which was created and performed by Maggie Bell. It is haunting and holds within it all the grief and longing that the heart could give for a loved one.
(This is a soundtrack I would love to purchase which I did sometime later)
The Raggedy Rawney was filmed entirely on location in Czechoslovakia, and provided some spectacular scenic views. And it was a background which ‘fit’ the movie, the Rom, and my own imagination’s idea of what surroundings would suit the Rom. It is a journey for the mind and the soul.
(Handmade Films, 1988)