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Friendly Persuasion


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Who's seen this one? I'm of two minds about it. I appreciate its sympathetic, down-to-earth portrayal of Quaker life, and I don't mind that it focuses on the tension between Quaker ordeals and the lived experiences of this particular family, especially regarding the temptations of the local fair and the organ Jess Sr. buys (I especially love the compromise Jess and Eliza come to on that one -- and how they arrive at it!). I don't mind the film gently questioning the Quakers' various scruples, which for the most part the film does not without affection and respect. I admit I might feel differently if I were a Quaker myself -- but then, I'm not. (OTOH, I've read some online comments from Quakers, and some object to the film while others don't.)

Spoilers

However, in the last act, when it comes to what I think of as one of the core Quaker values, pacifism and nonviolence, the film alienates me in a number of respects. I'm not a pacifist myself, but it irritates me that every single Quaker character holds onto his or her ideals of nonviolence right up to a point when something he or she cares about is harmed or threatened, and then all of a sudden it's John Wayne time. Even sanctimonious Elder Purdy's ideals survive only until his own barn is burned down, and Jess Sr., who is willing to bend so many other Quaker principles, seems really to believe in this one, until his son's horse comes back riderless.

To me, this seems to suggest that pacifism is basically a lack of imagination. The pacifists know that bad things are happening, that other peoples' barns are being burned down and other people's sons killed, but they don't believe in doing anything until it's their own barns, their own sons. Though I'm not a pacifist, I would like to see pacifism treated with more respect than this. I would have liked the movie better if there were one character who stood fast to his ideals and was admired and respected for doing so.

I also think it's weird that the screenwriters couldn't do a better job with the archaic Elizabethan grammar than to convert all the "you"'s to "thee"'s regardless of case (and all the "your"'s to "thy"'s). We thus get such ungrammatical constructions as "When thee asks or suggests, I am putty in thy hands, but when thee forbids, thee is barking up the wrong tree" rather than something like "When thou ask or suggest, I am putty in thy hands, but when thou forbid, thou art barking up the wrong tree."

Any other thoughts?

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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It's been way too long since I've seen it to comment directly, but you probably have the pacifism part right. Not an uncommon convintion, at least for that period -- you know the guy who refuses to fight will end up kicking serious butt. Same sort of thing in The Quiet Man (which is literally John Wayne time). I don't think pacifism has been truly respected in our society, except in a few cases, such as MLK. We keep thinking that if you push far enough that pacifists will act out their anger like the rest of us. Conscientious Objectors may have had a certain amount or respectablity during Vietnam, but they certainly didn't during WWII.

One film in which the pacifists do stand by their principles is Witness. I think the Amish are a bit embarassed when Book punches out their tormentors. Even when the bad cops come to the farm, the Amish are there in force to serve as witnesses and by their nonviolent presence end the violence.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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I found the film charming in some ways and annoying in others. In particular, the awkward grammer surrounding the Thee/Thou issue came off like a schoolboy's version of Quaker-speak. More than once I thought to myself 'They wouldn't say it like that!' (Not that I know any Quakers personally, so maybe I'm wrong; I did read a number of books about the Quakers when I was younger, though.) So, I agree with you there, SDG.

On the charming side, the buggy race to church was a great smile moment - a deft portrayal of the seemingly calm intensity that often surrounds petty issues. Not that buggy racing is a petty issue, mind you...

Tim

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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I thought it was funny that the only person in the whole movie who ever says "Thou" is the non-Quaker who says "What's with all this 'thee' and 'thou' business?" The reel Quakers always say "thee," never "thou." (Later in the movie there's another querying line that doesn't draw attention to the problem: "What's with all this thee-ing and thy-ing?"

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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