What do you get when you cross The Three Stooges with Homer’s Odyssey? You get what the Coen Brothers call ‘O’ Brother Where Art Thou?’ This star-studded, well acted, scored and directed film has become a cult classic over the years, but more than that, this highly anticipated release on Blu-ray DVD has become a classic Coen Brothers film. Released initially in 2,000 this 10+ year old film tells an incredible story that is as timeless as The Odyssey by Homer which it is based on.
Over the years the Coen Brothers have contributed a great deal to the cinema. From such films as Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and as of late, True Grit, this brother director force has produced some of the top grossing, well reviewed films of the last 10 years. Some would justifiably argue that O’ Brother Where Art Thou, may be the best of the lot. I wouldn’t go quite that far but I would go so far as to say it is certainly in their top 5, possibly top 3 films. The story weaves together like a fine Amish quilt and of all the roles George Clooney has played, his role here as Ulysses Everett the leader of the trio of convicts on the run is my favorite. Every role though has incredible talent, especially Pete and Delmer, played by John Turturro and Tim Blake Neslson. While mixing in humor with allegorical story, the film is quite entertaining.
The story follows the exploits of three escaped convicts in the 1930’s. Shortly after the after their escape they come across an old man who shares a prophesy with them about how their lives is going to change for the better after a series of difficulties. The location of the movie set in the South in the 1930’s incorporates a part of the regions history as well as the music of the region in its storytelling. It seems as if Everett, Pete and Delmer are three convicts searching for their freedom, not just in a literal sense, but also in a spiritual sense. As the three come across various circumstances and opportunities their story mixes in humor with stunning visuals. Along the way is a mixture of spiritual themes that each character must address in their lives.
The Coen Brothers do something somewhat incredible in their movies, they find ways to take the strange character and make them not only likeable, but present them in such a way that the audience can relate to, and appreciate them. The same can be said for O’ Brother. One of the things they do here, especially in the primary three characters is they do this with humor, but also with us caring for each of the characters presented on screen. There is no doubt as to who is a good guy or who is a bad guy, but there is also no doubt that the acts of the person in the past does not make them who they are now. We see this especially as the characters develop and come to recognize the important things of life such as friendship, freedom, and the hope for an eternal future.
The spiritual significance of the story can be easily associated with various Christian concepts, ranging from scenes of acceptance of all people, despite race, or background to the ability to change and become a new creature. We also see the danger of religion, especially of those pretending to be something they aren’t. We especially see this in the role of a Bible salesman by John Goodman. We also see the positive aspects of religion, especially in a character that goes through a transformation in a baptism scene. In another symbolic baptism scene, we see characters getting ready to be hung and killed when suddenly, after a confession and prayer, a giant flood comes in. Out of the water emerge new creatures that recognize the potential for the future. We also see the imagery of crosses and church played out in the storyline. Of all of these themes, I especially liked the way the redemptive themes are presented. They are played out in such a way that we can see that whosoever can find redemption, for whatsoever. We even see this in the movies featured track, by Alison Krauss and Union Station, featuring Dan Tyminski, Man of Constant Sorrow. During an exciting conclusion of the film, we see the song play out to the point that not only the characters, but the viewer sees the possibility of hope, especially hope that comes with the love from others and commitment to God.
There is nothing I didn’t like about this movie. The story flows with ample spiritual themes that have the viewer relating to the temptations of their own life, and the possibility of change. Not only change though but the hopes of a bright, eternal future. The Blu-ray transfer is quite nice; especially the sound aspects and both of these make the DVD worth owning. While there are some good special features, I would have liked more. It is well worth owning though and is a movie I have watched many times and now with the Blu-ray aspect, will watch many more, but with more clarity, sound quality and an overall enjoyable experience. If you haven’t seen the film, get it, watch it, and enjoy a Coen Brothers classic.
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