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For anyone who has suffered through the slings and arrows of outrageous
misfortune in love, this 1983 mini-series will touch their hearts like
no other film or TV series ever made. The casting was perfect in every
way to bring the story of the Australian Cleary family to life so
vividly (Jean Simmons as the mother "Fee" won the Emmy Award that year;
unfortunately Henry Mancini didn't for his gorgeous musical score, and
he deserved to win!).
While the main thrust of this story and film appears on the surface to be the love of a Roman Catholic priest for a young girl whom he sees grow into adulthood, the underlying, truly poignant aspect of this story is about the long-term effects of what happens to children when mothers love one child more than another. This theme is the real heart tugger here. Meggie is an afterthought to her mother Fee until the very end of the story (Frank is her favorite child, even though he is troubled, because Frank was the love child of a pre-marital affair), and later on when Meggie becomes a mother Dane is her favorite child (also a product of a clandestine love), and her daughter Justine is the afterthought.
It is this basic lack of love that each child feels from his or her mother that determines the choices they make in life (i.e. Meggie choses to love someone who cannot commit to her, Justine choses to avoid love altogether and throw herself into acting to escape reality, Frank goes off and kills a man because he cannot deal with loving his mother too much, Ralph reveals his mother abandoned him early so he too inclines towards a non-committal type of love with Meggie and escapes through the church, etc.)
The pattern develops early and continues throughout the lives of the Clearys. That is why, to me, the most profoundly moving scenes in this entire series are right near the end: 1) when the old Fee has to tell Meggie that her son Dane has died, and she caresses Meggie's face for the first time in both their lives, and 2) the scene in the stable barn, between Meggie and Justine, as they confront the truth: that Meggie does love Justine, but Dane WAS the favorite child, for reasons beyond Justine's control. In hugging Fee and crying in grief, and in resolving her differences with Justine, Meggie finally finds the peace she needs in life; she is then able to let go of Ralph when the inevitable takes him from her for good.
I saw this movie first time when I was 16. I didn't understand it at
first, but after that I got the novel and read it all over in 3 days. I
have a VHS copy of this movie at home and I usually watch it twice a
year (It means that I have nearly watched it more than 20 times). Every
time I watch it I can't give any breaks! Last night I watched it till
the end again until 6am... It always makes me sad and I can't stop my
emotions, I cry (together with smiles) for a forbidden love....
especially the last 30 minutes of the movie.
Very great movie with a wonderful music, the best movie I have ever seen in my life, I always have recommended it for all my friends and the people who believe in existence of a true love. I am going to buy the DVD version of this movie for myself, although I have VHS version of it.
I always adore the acting of both Richard (Ralph) and Rachel (Maggie). Both of them have done best in this movie and I have become to love Rachel Ward since I saw this movie.
I hope the people who read my comment have seen the movie. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend you to hire it and watch it till the end at least once in your life time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Spoiler Alert To speak of what I think or feel, after seeing this
movie, is complicated. I confess I read first all the comments of the
other people who saw the movie, and very few of them really got the
point of what this story is really about. I have not read the book, so
I've no prejudiced ideas about how the characters should be like. So to
me, they appeared perfect. But to come back to my main idea, the movie
is about us, about our lives and the right or wrong choices we make.
About how we must seek our destiny, inspite the pain and suffering it
might cause us. That is the thorn bird.
The movie ends with father Ralph saying that we have to follow our destiny, even if it leads us to certain death, for while we know the terrible price we'll have to pay for our choice "we still do it". It is about how people give into what they believe. Father Ralph confesses in the end "I told myself it was meant to be", thus showing how his believes have shaped his life. He certainly loved having a purpose, being content with himself and who he was, and couldn't bare being stripped of that magical halo that priesthood had bestowed upon him. He certainly had too much of what it took to be a prince of the Church, to give up this privilege, even for Maggie, whom he loved so dearly. He knew that was his destiny, inflicted upon him through birth, breading and choice long before he knew Maggie.So he could not have been anything else than what he was. Not being able to be with Maggie, because he was a priest, was a tragedy, but I think an even bigger tragedy for him would have been to live a simple life, married to his beloved Maggie. Maggie is not to be condemned either for loving him, because it was her destiny, decided from the moment she had laid eyes on him. And maybe that is the central theme of the story, that nobody seems to notice. About how people are imprisoned in their beliefs about what they want, and what they think is good for them. And the same story repeats itself everyday, with most of us, without even knowing it.
I think what this movie is trying to say is that many things in life are perhaps destined to us, "long before we are born", as Fee says at one point, but there are enough choices that we can make. But if choices exist, even when it comes to the things that represent our destiny, and are set somewhat above our will, we cannot make the choices that would decide our destiny, simply because the destiny is stronger than our power to choose. In the case of Ralph and Maggie, that is the point. Ralph cannot choose not to love Maggie, no more than he can choose to stop being a priest. And in her turn, Maggie cannot choose not to love Ralph, no more than she can choose to love Luke or any other man. The whole movie is about choices. Remember the scene in Athens, with comedians playing a scene from Hippolytus? And how the cardinal Contini - Verchese ( a brilliant Christopher Plummer) says that this is the tragedy of Christianity, that it allows people to choose, and have free will, while in the Greek pagan religion everything was destined to man by the Gods, and man had no choice to make about his life?
I think that almost all the characters in the movie have choices, that could turn upside down their destiny, decided for them "by the gods", but they cannot make those choices, simply because they would loose their meaning through them. That's why Ralph can't choose not be a priest, why Maggie cannot choose not to love him. They define themselves through what they believe was meant for them, and can't have this thorn taken out of their breast. So it happened at first with Fiona, loving Frank a lot more than the other children, just because he was the image of the man she first loved, and how it happened to Dane, who was drawn to God, in spite of the great love he had for his mother. And the examples do not stop here. And it's wrong to say there's no moral in the whole story.
In the end, we realize that, because they were not able to rise above their condition and make the choices that would break their destiny and change it, the characters suffer and are punished. The only thing that's still alive in the end is love. Father Ralph is one of the greatest roles that Chamberlain has ever played, if not the greatest. Barbara Stanwick is absolutely breathtaking, especially in that scene where she confesses to Ralph: "I have always loved you. So much that I would have killed you for not wanting me". Like the other characters above mentioned, Mary Carson is doomed not to be able to choose not to punish Ralph for not giving into her. Rachel Ward was a divine Maggie, even in the moments when she was bitter and cruel to Ralph. In those moments in the end, when she announces him, after Dane's death, that Dane was his son too, she seems like the voice of God, punishing him for his ambition, which made him love halfway both God and Maggie.In the end, he finds out he has betrayed his own self, not being able to be true neither to God, who wanted him either married or a priest, nor to Maggie, who wanted him to listen to what the love for her commanded him to do.
I also loved Jean Simmons, who was a perfect Fiona, and so convincing when she cried after her Paddy, and said about Maggie, in that prophetic way: "What's a daughter? A younger version of oneself, who will cry the same tears and make the same mistakes". Richard Kiley was great as Paddy as well. And so was in fact the whole cast. I also loved Philip Anglim in the part of Dane "a truly holy man". He was perfect, for his soul was with God, and thus he had outdone Father Ralph.
I recommend this movie to whomever should want to see it. It's a beautiful experience, and it ends beautifully, with Justine (played brilliantly by Mare Whiningham - hope I got it right - inspite of what some of the movie's viewers might believe) leaving Drogheda and breaking the curse of being trapped in the unfortunate destiny of the Cleary women, who wanted all men they could never have. She has indeed her work and the love of a man who will never break her heart, as Maggie tells her in the end.
This is by far the longest review I've written until now. Hope the little details I gave about the characters are not considered spoilers. Thanks IMDb for this chance of saying plainly what I think.
Upon my initial viewings, this moved me. It is an emotionally charged
of forbidden love, scandal and tragedy that teaches a very powerful
lesson...that we, as a human race, are all doomed to destruction, each
generation repeating the mistake of the one before (remember Rev. Jim
himself said "those who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat
This miniseries was the Australian outback's answer to "Gone With The Wind". Only this time it's Cardinal DeBricissart (Richard Chamberlin) that's the Scarlett O'Hara and Meggie Cleary (Rachel Ward) that's the Rhett Butler. And yes, it cries for a sequel that can never be made. And yes, not all love stories have happy endings.
And there are some sequences that do not depend on a music score, such as the touching climactic scene with Meggie and Justine in the barn.
But that's just what makes a miniseries a classic. This is not some cheap-skate adaptation of a best selling book...this is the way novels should be made.
My mother was given the box set DVD for Christmas, we sat down to watch it on Christmas day at about 8 o'clock, and didn't move until the early hours of the next morning. I simply couldn't drag my eyes away from the screen for one second. I became such an instant fan that as soon as I could I rushed off and bought the book, and before I knew it, I'd finished that as well! Towards the end of the film I felt myself identifying more with Justine, than I had done with Meggie the younger and elder throughout the film. Fate is always so cruel, how could Dane leave Meggie, and how could Justine desert her mother, and just how long did Fee live? That women seemed everlasting! Overall, I loved every second of it, and felt, as every women does, a very strong attraction to Richard Chamberline THROUGHOUT! I probably would've starved and gone without sleep if the book hadn't been prised away from my hands.
Richard Chamberlain became an even bigger heartthrob with the advent of this epic mini-series, Rachel Ward became a star, and Barbara Stanwyk made a major comeback and stole the show in only three hours of on-screen time. "The Thorn Birds", based on Colleen McCullough's best-selling epic novel takes place in the Australia of the 1920's and stretches across three generations to the 1960's and tells the story of a life-long romance between an ambitious priest (Chamberlain) and the woman who only wanted his love. Rachel Ward is a beautiful rose as Meggie, Richard Chamberlain is an ideal Ralph de Bricassart and Barbara Stanwyk is at her best as Mary Carson, Meggie's aunt, the richest yet loneliest woman in Australia. She desires Ralph for herself but he easily spurns her and she takes revenge on him with unmerciful vengeance. He had broken his vow of obedience prior to meeting Mary Carson and she sets out to cause him to break his other vows of poverty and especially chastity. When she dies suddenly she leaves her entire estate to the Church in Rome with Ralph in soul charge as overseer (vow of poverty now broken). She also knows that sooner or later he will hopelessly succumb to Meggie's wish of receiving his love. Several years pass before that vow is broken but it eventually is and what comes of it is a deep, dark secret that will either make or break Ralph. The entire supporting cast is brilliant also: Barbara Stanwyk, Richard Kiley and Jean Simmons all won an Emmy for their performances. Piper Laurie, Christopher Plummer and Bryan Brown were all nominated but poor, little Rachel Ward and Mare Winningham got the shaft. See it! It's a full, rich story with powerful stamina!
My Mother talked me into watching this movie with her about 15 years
ago. I loved it but didn't quite understand all the emotion behind it.
I watched it again this past week and was amazed at how differently it
spoke to me.
We can learn so much about love, forgiving and humility from this story. I also loved how in the end Meggie and her mother finally come to understand one another and her mother is able to show her the love she has longing for. It's a great reminder to not put off showing love to those close to us, but to be like Meggie and give it whether it is given or not.
If it's been a while see it again, because your perspective has changed and it will mean something different to you today.
If you have never seen it before, I think it is well worth the time you'll invest in seeing it. But be sure to grab some tissues.
This is an epic series that truly has it all. Drama, tragedy, forbidden love...u can't go wrong. I was glued to the TV when it came on the hallmark channel. But it's LONG. You have to break it down into different days because it's like 10 hours long. I think it's better than Gone with the Wind. But that's just me! It takes you on this long journey of the Cleary family in the early 1900's all the way to the 1950's. Sometimes Rachel Ward's and Richard Chamberlain's acting is a little on the dramatic side, but it's OK. It really does add to the whole story. I actually bought the DVD and it was pretty reasonable...only $24.99. You just get mesmerized by this story and it takes you to another time and place and just can't help wondering what is going to happen in the end.
Very well done; highly watchable. Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward are okay as the tortured lovers, but the acting kudos go to Barbara Stanwyck and Christopher Plummer. Stanwyck won an emmy for her role and Plummer was nominated for his. (He should have won.) Ms. Stanwyck's final scene is wrenching--the emotion came straight out of her guts and no matter how many times I see it, it chokes me up. She was one of the greats and it shows in this performance. Christopher Plummer's portrayal of "Vittorio," Ralph's friend and mentor in the church, is delightful and oh, so perceptive. He sees right through Ralph and we see what he knows in his eyes--subtle and convincing; a good role for Plummer. Numerous plot lines, interesting locations, adventure, romance, tragedy, strong cast, great music, thought-provoking theme, engaging script--I recommend it!
I was only 2 when the miniseries first came out, but when I was in the 6th
grade it was on TV, and the part that I saw that hooked me, was when
was coming down the stairs at Mary Carsons birthday party. Ever since
it has been my most loved film of all time. I even showed it to my
boyfriend and he actually liked it.
I wouldn't change anything from the miniseries and I believe that everyone in it were excellent, especially Richard Chamberlain, Rachel Ward, and Christopher Plummer. I believe if anyone was played by a different person, it wouldn't completely satisfy us viewers. About a year ago I created a webpage dedicated to The Thorn Birds (only) so if you would like to see it, e-mail me or click through under the photos link if it is listed. Or just go to yahoo and do a search.
I also am writing a sequal of my own to it so if anyone is curious as to what it's about, don't hesitate to email me.
On a down note, they shouldn't have made the sequal 'the missing years'. The people in it weren't good enough at their character, only Richard Chamberlain was in it, and the storyline just didn't do anything for the original. If you haven't seen The Thorn Birds yet, just see Thorn Birds, and do not see the sequal unless you just want to see it to see how disappointing it is compared to the original. It also wasn't good to alter the actual characteristics of the original characters (such as Fee). Quite disapointing in my opinion, and many others seem to agree with me.
Enjoy! Long live The Thorn Birds! P.S if anyone knows if thorn birds will be coming out on DVD or know where I can contact someone to ask, please please PLEASE let me know!
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