The movie “O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?” is strongly influenced by music at several key scenes, and the songs that they use help drive the story along, while also explaining how and why the culture is the way that it is. The songs themselves are for the most part being performed live for the scene in the movie in which they are played. This, along with the messages of the songs help to drive the plot of the movie along.
At one point in the movie, the three lead characters find themselves fighting over a watch that one of them stole from the others family member when they become surrounded by a large group of Christians singing as they walk down to the river to be Baptized. The characters follow the singers down to the water and two of them become baptized themselves in order to have God forgive them of their sins. The third abstains from this practice and cracks jokes at the other two for having done this. The song that is sung by the Christians is “Down to the River to Pray” by Allison Krauss, it is very fitting as that is exactly what the scene portrays, people going down to the river to pray. The lead character says that “Hard times have flushed a chump, everybody’s looking for answers” referring to the tough living conditions created by the Great Depression and the Tennessee Valley where they live was being flooded in order to make hydroelectric dams. This large group of people coming to be saved have or shortly will lose everything they own and are coming down to the river to pray in order to find an answer to their problems somewhere.
The three characters later steal a car and are driving down the road when one of them hears some singing from the woods and excitedly yells at the driver to pull over. He then rushes off into the woods in order to find the women who are singing. The two others catch up to him as he finds three women washing their clothes in the river singing a lullaby called “Go to Sleep Little Babe”. The men are stunned and speechless by the beauty and the singing of the women who then approach them. The women dance on the men and force them to drink a lot of liquor while singing the lullaby which puts the men to sleep. After they awake, they see that Pete, one of the three men is missing and his clothes are left behind and a frog is inside of his shirt. They assume that the women cast a spell on them, putting them to sleep, and turned Pete into a frog. The singing and enchantment of the song, as well as the words, that “you and me and the devil makes three” lead the men to believe that the women are witches, or Sirens. The song itself tells of the hardships of living at that time period in America, it tells of families breaking up and children being left behind by parents. This would explain different scenes in the movie when families turn on each other for money, as they don’t have anything to get by on.
The music in “O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?” is a focal point of the whole film, and does a great job of adding to the film as a whole. The film only uses period correct tunes, while focusing on Blue Grass unlike any other film I’ve seen. This focus on Blue Grass greatly appealed to me, but may be considered off putting by other viewers who don’t like the genre of music. For these reasons, I give this movie four buckets of popcorn.