Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Wind (1928) - ★★★★★

Director: Victor Sjostrom
Writers: Dorothy Scarborough (Novel), Frances Marion (Scenario)
Stars: Lillian Gish, Lars Hanson, Montagu Love, Dorothy Cumming

The Wind is my favourite silent film of all time. It is quite simply one of the greatest achievements in the history of visual storytelling. The cinematography blew me away and the acting by Lillian Gish proves why she was a queen of the silent era. At only 95 minutes long, it's no wonder I was completely blown away throughout the entire film.

It's about a beautiful young woman named Letty (Gish), who moves to the Western Prairies to live with her cousin. The wind is so fierce there that it has been said that it's enough to drive a person insane. When her cousin's wife Cora (Dorothy Cumming) suspects Letty of trying to steal her husband, she kicks her out with no place to go. With many gentleman callers knocking at her door, she must make a choice to marry one of them for survival.

It's hard to fit this movie into a genre. There's gun-slinging, horses, cowboys and good old fashion southern talk, yet it's not a Western. Sometimes you see glimpses of beautiful romance, but not enough to label the movie a romance. You could call it a drama, but then again every movie is dramatic in one way or another. In the end, The Wind is in a category of its own.

The atmosphere of the movie is its strongest point; the wind never stops howling and its presence is always right there. You can see the wind affecting Letty, haunting her as she tries to get through each day. There are so many memorable scenes with the wind, the sand and the old cabin that she's confined to. She seems like a really sweet girl, which is why her struggle is one we can sympathize and follow with intrigue.

While Swedish actor-director Victor Sjostrom's direction is simple, it's very effective. There aren't over the top special effects where multiple layers are thrown here and there (which many silent-filmmakers experimented with). He added remarkable effects where necessary. My second-favourite scene in the whole movie was the 'Injuns' metaphor for the Great Norther Wind. They say it was a stallion stampeding around the clouds. Letty looks up at the sky, a stallion appears in the clouds wildly bucking about, appearing as if it's creating the wind.

All of the performances were fantastic. Lillian Gish really is one of the masters of facial expression. Sometimes she'd look overly frantic, then she'd have all the subtlety an actor can muster. She had marvellous chemistry with Lars Hanson, who played Lige. Together, they added subtle hints of romance to an otherwise gloomy movie. Dorothy Cumming was amazing as the spiteful wife of her cousin. She had all the poisonous venom of the character Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson) from Rebecca (1940).

I'm not going to pretend I'm a connoisseur of silent cinema. To be perfectly honest, I much prefer the talkies. The Wind proved to me that a silent film can possess all the thrill of a talking western, and all the beauty of a talking romance. It is a simple masterpiece that I shall forever remember as being one of the best silent films I've ever seen.

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