Reviewed by: Jonathan DeMersseman
“Legends of the Fall”—directed by Edward Zwick and starring Brad Pitt, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Julia Ormond, and Aidan Quinn—tells the story of Colonel Ludlow (Hopkins) and his three sons; Alfred, Tristan, and Samuel. The main story begins on the eve of World War I, when Samuel, the youngest, brings his fiancée, Susana (Ormond), to meet the family. The plot revolves around the Colonel’s favorite son, the darkly charismatic Tristan (Pitt’s character), whose rebelliousness and individuality wreak havoc on those around him.
The narrator, a Cree Indian who is a friend of the family, infuses shamanistic and animistic beliefs into his monologues. He opens saying, “Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness, and they live by what they hear.” He identifies Tristan as such a person, filled with an animal spirit that drives him from the company of men.
While the Ludlows evince theistic beliefs, they seem unguided by them. Toward the close of the move Alfred (Quinn) comes to the conclusion that how you live life is unimportant, declaring to Tristan, “I followed all the rules—man's… God's—and you followed none of them. And they loved you more.”
Moreover, the narration leads viewers to conclude that dying a good death, a warrior’s death, rather than living a good life, a life pleasing to God, is the chief end of man.
Other content concerns include Tristan’s encouraging Samuel have pre-marital intercourse with Susana in the most vulgar terms; three sexual scenes, each showing bare breasts; dysfunctional familial relationships; violence; cursing God; suicide; and general profanity.
The acting and cinematography are excellent, in keeping with the fine cast. Nevertheless, “Legends of the Fall” is a post-modern tale of the meaningless misery of life and the absence of any foundational truth to which the Ludlows can cling. From a Christian perspective, the only redeeming impression this movie imparts is that life apart from God is both painful and meaningless… something most Christians already know.