When I was at Susquehanna, I was in a production of Brigadoon. Afterwards I needed a copy of the soundtrack to listen to in order to easily pull up and revel in all those memories, and the movie soundtrack had to do. I listened to it again today, and I was hit by the same problem I always have when listening to this.
I don't remember having this problem when I was in it...but I wasn't in the key bothersome scene, so I might just have passed it by. It's the scene of expositional dialogue that explains the entire cornerstone of the musical...that Brigadoon is the result of a "miracle". If you don't know the story, read the synopsis of
Scene 5Outside his house, the kindly and benign Mr. Lundie tells that although any resident of Brigadoon is able to explain the miracle to a visitor, it would not be believed. Therefore, the task has fallen to him. Two hundred years ago, the Highlands of Scotland were plagued with witches, who were taking the folk away from God's teachings and putting the devil into their souls. Mr. Forsythe, Brigadoon's aged minister, fearing for his flock's fate after his death, decided to ask God for a miracle. Early on a Wednesday morning, he went out to a hill beyond Brigadoon and asked God to make the village and its people vanish into the Highland mist, to reappear in the world for one day every hundred year, not long enough to be touched by the outside world. That was Wednesday: today is Friday, two days later to the villagers, yet two centuries to the rest of the world. The sacrifice for the miracle was Mr. Forsythe's life, for when God made the town vanish, Mr. Forsythe could not return. If any resident of Brigadoon should leave its borders, the enchantment is broken. The town will vanish forever, although a stranger may come to live there if that person truly loves and individual in Brigadoon. After Fiona leaves to dress for the wedding, Tommy is assured by Mr. Lundie that everyone is happy in the village.
My problems with this story are many and varied.
1. According to this timeline, the miracle took place two hundred years ago, which is two days to the villagers. Yet they all talk about it as if it was something that happened years ago, and is generally accepted among them as if it had always been. Plus, they talk about Mr. Forsythe, the guy that brought it all about, as if he had been gone a while. The man doing the explaining, Mr. Lundie, even says "we ne'er saw him again." Please. They'd all still be in mourning, or possibly still expecting him to turn up. Which brings me to problem 2, which is really the biggie.
2. How do they know what happened at all? Picture this: you live in a small village in 18th century Scotland. One day you go to bed, and when you wake up your minister is gone and it's one hundred years later. Great, but how on earth would you know that it's a hundred years later? Not to mention all the details of the deal...which are pretty exact. No one can leave, but there are loopholes that allow people to stay. But how the hell do they know that? Sure, Mr. Forsythe apparently told Mr. Lundie his plans, so they knew where he went and what he was asking for. They didn't know if it worked, they didn't know if God listened to all the specifics of the plan and went along with it.
3. Now we come to the moral part of the deal. Yeah, yeah, he asked for the miracle to save his little village from the influence of witches and the evils of the outside world. Which also cuts them off from any good influences from the outside world. Given that it was written in 1947, I can understand the theme and appeal of hiding from evil influences, blah blah blah. The ethics of that are debatable, but I can see it. But not allowing anyone in Brigadoon to leave? That's just mean. There are always people who need to travel, or who just don't fit in where they are born. Those people are doomed to live and die in a tiny village when they know that there is a world out there that has moved past that village by leaps and bounds every single day.
4. This is part of 3, really, but it deserves its own number because it's a big one. How long are these people going to live? I suppose it's a modern perspective that may not have been part of the zeitgeist in 1947, but it seems to me that the world is going to end someday. Whether it be natural or man-made disaster, living a hundred years in every day is just leap-frogging your way toward armageddon. So by creating this miracle, Mr. Forsythe is dooming his flock to a pretty short life. Maybe a couple of months...maybe. And that's putting them several millennia ahead of us, so it's giving a lot of benefit of the doubt to humanity.
I don't talk about my logistical issues with Brigadoon very often. People have a tendency to roll their eyes at me and say that it's fiction. It was written over fifty years ago. And it's a musical romantic comedy, for god's sake. All true, no question. But I like my fiction to at least hold to its own premise well. I like to not see plot holes large enough to herd a Highland village through. And I like to be able to discuss fictional plots as if they were real, to poke holes if I can. I'll suspend disbelief, but not logic or basic human nature.
On le 12 mai 2008 19:06 (UTC), (anonyme) commented:
So very very true. I'm a writer, but also an Equity actor, and am performing in a professional production of Brigadoon (we start rehearsals tomorrow), and am understudying Lundie, so I have to learn all his lines. As I'm learning them, I keep thinking that the premise is truly idiotic, but that I have to find some way to make this all sound believable if I'm called upon to do the role. And as a writer of fiction for whom verisimilitude is all-important (especially since I frequently write fantasy), such sloppiness in setting up a major premise is all the more galling. Thanks for showing me I'm not alone!