I've been waiting for this film to come out on DVD. Netflix made my day!
Observations about the film:
*Brigham Young comes off looking like a petulant, spoiled, pimp...which, I guess he was. But, what struck me most was the decision on the part of the film makers to use the verbatim testimony of Young (when he was being questioned for the events of 9/11/1857). This was an intriguing choice, both artistically and historically. Artistically, what Young fails to say gives another layer to his real persona. In the interview, he is asked to identify himself and state what offices he holds. He DOES NOT say "Prophet" of the Church of Jesus Christ LDS. He says "President". Now, within the church those are the same thing. But, it strikes me that it was kind of a pansy way out (for the film maker) to appease some people in Utah. So much of this movie, as I'll get into later, has taken drastic artistic license, so why not state the man's position for what it really was? Was it that they didn't want to suggest that Young acted, in his mind, of God's accord in the murder of the Fanchers?
*Right off, after Young's questioning, we cut to a sequence wherein we're shown a 20 year old lady and a man pull up to Mountain Meadows in a surrey. The young woman narrates that she was six months old at the time of the massacre and, while she doesn't remember events, she remembers "emotions". She "remembers" that "two worlds collided in that meadow - one of love, the other of hate." *ouch* Ok. A) There were no female six month olds who survived. I know the movie is "inspired by real events", but why not use the REAL female, infant survivor as your base? Why not use one year old Sarah Dunlap or eighteen month old Georgia Ann Dunlap? B) The fact that they are already manufacturing characters means I'm probably not going to like this movie. C) I hate it when there's the "good guys" and the "bad guys". Life is rarely like that. It's shallow and undercuts the real tragedy.
* OH NO THEY DIDN'T! They turned this into a love story? Not so subtle camera angles showing some flitation between the Bishop's son and a Fancher pioneer girl signal the beginning of anachronistic hell.
* Then we get into this little montage of both groups saying prayers before a Sunday dinner. The Fancher minister has gathered the wagon party and is asking blessings upon the LDS Bishop who so graciously allowed them to stay on his land... and then you cut to John Voight (playing, Mormon McEvil), surrounded by his wives, and saying "Curse the gentiles and the abomination they bring...". Cut to the Fancher minister, "...and, thank you for the charity bestowed upon us." I hate that this movie is making me defend the LDS Church, but... this is pure pandering to the protestants. When John Voight ends the prayer with "may these children of satan go to heaven.", one is pretty sure that historical accuracy has been tossed under a bus. All bets are off.
*When did the Fanchers have time to build themselves a corral (for the horses)? Why would they build a corral out of birch when they were only planning a two week stay in the meadow?
I will say that this film did a great (if not overly obvious) job of presenting the concept that any religious person can be motivated by sense of obligation to do horrible things in the name of their God. The film illustrates that Islam isn't the only religion of hate...that, in truth, there is an element of hate that can be exploited by those in power (no matter what religion). And, for that, the film serves an important function. I think, however, that it would've been a more powerful film without the fictionalized romance. The act, in itself, was horrible enough without playing on the emotions of forbidden romance. Showing the heart-wrencing truth of chidlren torn from parents and murdering innocent children simply because they could talk is horrifying enough. And, showing how, as the evidence and survivors have told, that parents and older siblings through themselves in front of bullets or pistol whips to protect family and friend is the real story of love.