All posts by Aileen Mack

Setting the Tone

I think because  I had already seen “Wind River” before we watched it in class I was able to appreciate the way director Taylor Sheridan was able to use the harsh Wyoming landscape to create the overwhelmingly bleak atmosphere of the film and comment on how that kind of environment affects people. Specifically I noticed this second time around an interesting moment when Cory talks to Natalie’s brother, Chip, in the police car. Chip says something about how it’s the land that destroyed him. And Cory reminds him that he could’ve left either by going into the military or going to school as though leaving the physical space around them is the only way to survive.

I’ve read in film reviews about the idea of setting becoming a character in a film (for example Woody Allen’s Manhattan is often described as a love letter to New York City) and I think this movie really does a similar thing with the snowy plains and mountains of Wyoming. The reservation and the surrounding area becomes a villain in and of itself, a constant threat that the characters have to be aware of. The audience can feel the land’s power and danger as the camera hangs high above the snow mobiles as they tear across the white mountains. Each person, truck, and snow mobile is reduced to tiny black dot crawling through the massive snow fields. It’s a rural, open, wide landscape and each person is dwarfed by the massive size of the nature around them. There’s no where to hide in this environment and everywhere you go there is danger.

The only time the bleak grey/white/black color scheme really lets up is when we are transported into the orangey glow of Matt’s trailer in the brief warm and happy moments with Natalie where they talk about where they will live once they finally move away from Wind River. And almost immediately the positive atmosphere is torn apart and the unrelenting danger of their attackers and the Wyoming winter bursts in and destroys their peace. It’s almost as if it’s the land that is the real adversary in the film, or better put, the land is the most dangerous adversary in the film. There are evil, evil, evil characters in the film but it is interesting that in the end,  it’s the environment that does the real killing. Cory’s daughter Emily, Natalie and the disgusting Pete (the rapist) are all killed in the end by the freezing, unrelenting environment. Maybe Sheridan is commenting on how unfair and ruthless the world is in general and uses the Wyoming reservation as a more extreme, exaggerated example. Or rather that there is never any balanced or fair justice in the world that rewards the good and punishes the bad. In Wind River, the cold does not discriminate –  it will kill you regardless.

What role do you think the environment played in this film? How are the characters shaped by their responses to their environment?


What Happened to Larry?

As we discussed in class, film adaptations are a tricky business. The Razor’s Edge proved to be an especially difficult adaptation as the novel’s characters are all filtered through the mind of the narrator, who’s role and input is omitted from the film version. Thus every character in The Razor’s Edge film seems to be half-baked and half-imagined.

The adaptation harms Bill Murray’s Larry Darrell the most. In the novel Larry is kind, intelligent and enigmatic yet the film forgoes his softness in favor of oafish violence. Larry angrily breaks off his engagement to Isabelle, smashes furniture when she leaves and overall becomes a more masculine, more aggressive character. Larry’s overt aggressiveness muddies his character and undercuts his emotional and spiritual journey by seemingly suggesting Larry is not an intellectual searching for some kind of meta-meaning in his life but a beast of a man who seeks physical challenges like the mines and the hikes into the mountains to find enlightenment. The shot where he finally reaches the mountains, though visually spectacular, left me feeling frustrated because if this is the moment of Larry’s enlightenment, if this is the peak of his spiritual journey, why does it feel so hollow?

I think the movie also takes away from Larry’s interior, spiritual journey by having him find his real happiness and real passion, however brief, with Sophie. He tells Isabelle after Elliot and Sophie’s deaths that Sophie was his “reward” for all of the work and soul-searching he did for the first hour of the movie. Does that suggest that the coal-mining, the living on a boat, the hiking up the mountains, the experience with the monks, and the grocery business has all been for nothing? Was the path to happiness really just Sophia all along? I feel like in the novel Sophie was just another extension of Larry’s interior journey and in the film that motive just wasn’t as easily conveyed.

In the end, I think it was the omission of the narrator’s perception of the characters that left Larry so underdeveloped and contradictory. What do you all think?