Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Wind

The Wind; silent drama, USA, 1928; D: Victor Sjöström, S: Lillian Gish, Lars Hanson, Montagu Love, Dorothy Cumming, Edward Earle

Late 19th century. Letty is a young girl who wants to escape from poverty, and thus travels from Virginia to Sweetwater, Texas, to be with her cousin, Beverly. On a train, she meets the ominous cattle owner Wirt. Upon arrival, Letty is picked up by Beverly's neighbors, Lige and Sourdough, but is shocked to find out the whole area is plagued by a neverending desert wind. Beverly's wife, Cora, is jealous of Letty and wants to get rid of her. Letty thus decides to marry Wirt, but finds out he is already married and just wants her as an affair. Letty then decides to marry Lige, but feels isolated in his desolate house in the desert. When a wounded Wirt is brought to Lige's house, he tries to assault Letty, who shoots him in self-defence and buries his corpse in the back yard. When Lige returns, she confesses his love for him and pronounces she is not afraid of the wind anymore.

Director Victor Sjostrom's excursion into American cinema paid off appropriately since "The Wind", an adaptation of the eponymous novel, was critically recognized and with time reached that desired status of a classic. An excellent little film that delivers a subtle psychological character study thanks mostly to aesthetically pleasant landscapes of the desert and the neverending wind that pounds the area, by which it gains a highly stylish tone: the hidden leitmotiv is the everlasting harshness of nature and time that slowly corrode the futile idealistic actions of individuals who try to survive or keep up their spirit in the cold world. Already the sole arrival of the heroine at her destination via train is directed in an interesting manner, showing a desert storm at night that makes her new future highly inhospitable, while she is picked up by two men on a carriage, who claim to be her cousin's nearest neighbors, located 15 miles away from him. Another highlight is the ultra-masterful performance by Lillian Gish: with her facial expressions and charismatic looks she manages to deliver a thoroughly convincing portrayal as Letty, who undergoes a change from an innocent girl to a depressive, isolated, broken woman, thereby confirming her status as one of the main stars from the silent film era. From some daring and unusual camera drives at that time (the sequence in which the camera follows Letty dancing through the hall) up to the expressionistic finale (the wind blows out the peak of the buried corpse, making the man's face visible in the sand; Wirt opens the door after the sandstorm, only for two feet of accumulated "sand avalanche" to enter the house), "The Wind" is a worthy contribution to cinema and an apex in Sjostrom's film career.


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