New Movies -
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Old Movies -
Touki Bouki: The Journey of the Hyena
The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry
Recap: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 , 2005, 2006, 2007 , 2008 , 2009 , 2010 , 2011 , 2012
The Wind (Victor Seastrom, 1928)
Clearly one of the indisputable achievements of the silent era, Victor Seastrom’s The Wind is a melodrama of elemental force. As the film begins, the heroine Letty (Lilian Gish) leaves her Virgina home, only to find life at the dust bowl ranch she arrives at to be nightmarish. Not accustomed to the harsh, unmannered life of the frontier, she is forced to pick between a trio of unsavory suitors in order to escape it. Filmed on location in the Mojave desert, The Wind has remarkable environmental intensity. The film invokes nature in a way that renders human concern trivial, and amplifies the threat of defeat. Seastrom achieves uncanny perfection in his deployment of potent visual metaphors. The wind, which is the most obvious and oppressive of these, is incorporated into the director’s visual palette in a stroke of genius. Personified by a galloping steed, the wind incessantly rages in the background. The chaotic motion of swirling dust marks almost every frame, serving as a constant reminder of the heroine’s fragile mental state. Gish, rather perfect here, looks appropriately out of place in this world. The way she always seems to be waging a battle with her hat in the earliest scenes segues perfectly into her subsequent interior battles.
Beyond its evocative environments, The Wind is also remarkable for its psychological exactitude. At any given moment, we are privy to the inner workings of Letty’s mind. Even though the extent of her mania makes her somewhat unsympathetic, the film never shies away from detailing her motivation. Several exceptional moments, such as the one showing Letty’s wedding night, are startling in their intimacy. The scene details the newlyweds’ interplay primarily through close-ups of their feet, striking directly at the physical fear of sexual relations that lies at the root of Letty’s attitude toward her husband. Similarly, the scenes in which Letty is contrasted with the jealous wife of her childhood friend are almost painfully direct. Letty is dainty and unwilling to face her predicament, while her rival is literally shown in situations where she’s butchering an animal and manning a carriage. There's no mistaking where each of them stand. As the melodrama escalates past this point, Letty finds herself in increasingly impossible predicaments. Repulsed by her husband sexually, she needs him to protect her from the lecherous Roddy. She clearly knows that Roddy is dishonorable, but she needs his companionship when the alternative is being alone with the sound of the wind, which always threatens to send her hurtling toward madness. Though the ending of The Wind, which was changed from the novel and was incidentally imposed upon the studio by the film exhibitors, is out of step with what’s come before, it is hardly enough to disqualify Seastrom’s film as bona fide masterpiece.