A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Brigadoon is a 1954 film that was inspired by the 1947 Broadway musical about a beautiful Scottish village that seems protected from growing corruption and venality of the outside world as it magically lives in the past. A love story is depicted in song and dance. A man puts the existence of his village at risk and is stalked and accidentally killed. Hunters go grouse hunting. A man drinks too much alcohol.
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What's the story?
The village from the title, BRIGADOON, is a magical spot in Scotland that seems to live in the past. When Tom and Jeff (Gene Kelly and Van Johnson), two grouse-hunting vacationers from New York, stumble upon it, they are welcomed with hospitality. The local men wear kilts and what look to be tartan leotards and the women flouncy crinoline, all in seeming communal bliss. But it soon becomes clear that the villagers are hiding a strange secret. Tom, who is engaged to a woman he doesn't love back in New York, falls madly for Fiona (Cyd Charisse) at first sight and together they sing and dance to seal their connection.
Is it any good?
This classic musical will charm young fans of the genre. Some audiences may find the music quaint and cringe at the balletic choreography by its male lead, Gene Kelly, which can feel starkly out of sync with today's popular hip-hop-inspired dance moves. But the movie's technical quality cannot be disputed, with music and lyrics by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner, and direction by veteran Vincente Minelli, and produced by MGM musical guru Arthur Freed. Brigadoon opened on Broadway in 1947 and its success spawned this film and a 1966 television version of the same title. The suggestion is that modern life is bad and the old ways are good. Feminists will note that evil is blamed on women: witches threatened the village's tranquility, and Tom and Jeff note that such women are still around plaguing humanity in New York.
While it's not emphasized above the romance and magic, the religious backdrop is an important subtext. The story goes that it was a pastor's unilateral decision to make a deal with God on behalf of the innocents in his flock that blessed or doomed (depending on your point of view) Brigadoon to its strange existence/nonexistence. This is a proposition that could spur lots of philosophical discussion. Is it better to live safely, but sporadically, isolated in the past, with a small, insular group in seeming immortality, or to be out in the greater world with all the inherent risks and hazards? One member of the community feels doomed and stifled, and longs to escape. While the movie tries hard to sell the value of a safe haven impervious to the corrupt outer world, many viewers may identify with the outlier's longing for freedom.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the idea of protecting people from exposure to the world's corruption. There are many ways the creators of Brigadoon could have chosen to magically separate the village from the outer world. How do you think the solution they picked adds or subtracts from the success of the story?
How effective do you think the choreography suggests a blossoming romance between the lead characters?
Musicals depend on suspension of disbelief -- naturalistic acting disappears for a few minutes while the performers burst into song and dance to advance the plot. Do you think musicals are fun or odd? Why?
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