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Strong men, tough times, legends.
on July 2, 2000
Family saga is usually the domain of female audiences but while there is no denying that "Legends of the Fall" is a family saga, it has the power to keep any demographic, over the age of ten, spellbound. Love and jealousy are still the central themes and yet the characters are so large that I doubt many people would not envy them, in some way at least.
The Ludlows are almost mythical Americans. They live a tough but free existence in the North Country. Ruled by Colonel William Ludlow, (Anthony Hopkins), a Father carved from granite, the family's three sons grow up to be almost as tough. And for a man who spent his last professional years fighting for the rights of the native American's, a son who has absorbed native culture, along with the best of western values, has to hold a special place in his heart.
Tristan Ludlow, (Brad Pitt), is the focus of our attention from the start. His wild and fearless spirit is guided by One Stab, the colonel's loyal Indian companion. It is One Stab that narrates Tristan's story and from him we learn that Tristan's destiny is entwined with his animal spirit, the Grizzly Bear. As a boy he dares an enormous sleeping grizzly and they take some of each other's blood. Interpreting his later choices through the moods of the bear is a fascinating idea.
The pace of events pick up the moment the youngest son, Samuel, brings home his bride to be. The beautiful Susannah, (Julia Ormond), manages to steal the hearts of all three brothers and the father as well, although he has the wisdom to act correctly. Samuel arrives with more concern for the growing war in Europe than for his new love. His desire to play his part in the fight is opposed by the Colonel, jaded by the Government's past immoral acts. But nothing can stop a young man with a cause. Despite his brother's protection he manages to fulfill his destiny, opening the door to further possibilities for his brothers, with Susannah.
She manages to set the brothers against each other and forces the eldest, Alfred, (Aidan Quinn), on a new path entirely; one that takes him to the U.S. congress, supported by less than honorable men. All of this makes for a heady brew, plenty of drama, powerful performances and broken hearts. For my money, the film wouldn't have been the same without Isabel Two, played by both Karina Lombard and Sekwan Auger. She waits patiently for her chance with Tristan to come. She and One Stab, form the calm center to the hurricane that is the Ludlow family. And like a hurricane, one you've been touched, you'll never forget "Legends of the Fall".