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3.8 out of 5 stars
Barn Burning
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This 1980 short made-for-TV film might be small in size but it sure is big on impact. It was adapted from a short story by William Faulkner and takes place in Mississippi, when the Civil was still a living memory and family loyalty was unquestioned. Tommy Lee Jones, in an outstanding performance is cast as the father in a troubled family which has had to move many times because of his propensity for acts of revengeful violence. When the film opens he is on trial in a country store for burning the barn of a neighbor because of some disagreement regarding a hog. His teenage son, brilliantly played by Shawn Whitting is called to the witness stand but before he can be questioned, the judge refuses to intimidate the boy and simply rules that Tommy Lee Jones and his family must leave town.

The film really gets into the time and the place. The wagon is rickety, the family is weary and their poverty is obvious. They are now to become sharecroppers in another area and, when they arrive at their new home, the father and son go to visit the rich man they will be working for. The story then gets more complex as Tommy Lee Jones makes predicable choices. How it all turns out is the stuff of high drama. Mostly, questions are raised about family loyalty and moral questions of right and wrong. I was completely enhanced by the story, the fine acting, and the inevitable outcome. When it ended it left me with an echo and inspired me to read some more of Faulkner which I had dismissed in the past.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2007
My opinion:

My class agreed that this didn't capture the power of the actual short story. That may be impossible to do, actually. Somehow the film lacks the depth and charged darkness of the text.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2008
The film is approx. 40 minutes and does a decent job of putting Faulkner's work on screen. Some of the stream-of-consciousness is conveyed through voice-overs, which may provide a good talking point with students.

Tommy Lee Jones is a perfect Abner Snipes, in fact, I don't think I could picture him any other way.

The downside is that it is rather boring, though I truly don't know how it could be spiced up, since it does stay true to the story.

I plan to show it intermittently as we read the text, as students really struggle with it. I do believe it will be helpful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2013
This film is great in portraying the savage nature of Abner Snopes and his son Sarte's great desire to respect his father while remaining honest and true to his own integrity. The poverty and uncleanliness of the poor and the gap between the haves and the have-nots is starkly revealed in the novel. The fires are also set starkly against the backdrop of night. Sarty's hopelessness and desperation are very real, and he knows that he can no longer stay with "Pap," but he also knows that he will never have a real "father." Tommy Lee Jones is superb in playing the father as a cold, compassion-less, empty man who respects no one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2013
40 minute account of Faulkner's bitter envious racist sharecropper. Tommy Lee Jones could probably sustain more brooding pregnant pauses and quiet contemptous tone of voice today, but even in 1980 he moved with enough dark stiffness to channel this monster. Overall, the scenes where nothing is happening linger on too long and all the key action scenes rush by too quickly. It's biggest success is making everything look and feel vintage 1870's.
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on May 21, 2011
I used this film to enhance the teaching of Faulkner's story in my American Lit class. It follows the story and gives a reasonable interpretation of the characters. Tommy Lee Jones' depiction of Abner Snopes came off less aggressive than some of my students expected. That gave us some good material for discussion of characterization. I didn't buy the movie because I was able to stream it to my classroom. If I use it again, I'll buy it.
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on June 2, 2014
Unlike many movies, this one is faithful to the author. However, you need to know the original text of this famous short story by William Faulkner to fully understand what is happening. Subtitles, which, alas, are missing, would help greatly. The acting is superb and the burning barn awesome
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on October 7, 2012
I thought it did a minimal job in translating the narration provided in the book to film. It was over dramatized and I did not like the editing. I do however think that Tommy Lee Jones was absolutely gorgeous back then and brought the character Abner to life.
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on August 25, 2014
The quality of the video and sound editing in general is horrible. I was hoping to use it in a class where we are reading Faulkner's "Barn Burning," but it is not worth the trouble.
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on January 31, 2015
I ordered this movie for a friend, and have never seen it. He said it was very good, so I will go with his opinion.
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