Monday 15 July 2013

Jeremiah Johnson [1972]

Sydney Pollack’s anti-Western Jeremiah Johnson was a myth-making tale on the primeval philosophy of man as a creature of the wild – about his ability to survive in the wilderness and willingness to develop community from scratch. It was a story of the titular protagonist (Robert Redford), a jaded and world-weary lone wolf, who decides to leave civilization behind and take refuge in the Rocky Mountains. Faced with insurmountable challenges, he is taken under the wing of an aged and cackling mountain-dweller (Will Geer), before moving on with hands-on training on survival skills and setting up a small home away from the madding crowd with the daughter of the Chief of the Flathead Indians he ends up marrying, and a young boy he becomes a foster father to. Though unable to communicate with either of the two – she doesn’t speak English, while the kid is seemingly mute – they form a happy family. However, his tranquility turns out to be short-lived as members of the Crow tribe massacre them when he inadvertently violates their burial ground while leading the US Cavalry on a rescue mission. And thus, from a story of finding peace amidst the harsh and inhospitable wilderness, it becomes one of brutal revenge, being forced to go on the run, and becoming mythologized in the process. Shot on location, the film comprised of excellent visuals that very well captured the indomitable forces of nature, reminiscent of Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala. The leisurely pacing and serene tone provided affecting layers to the film’s motifs and naturalistic setting, and helped it in striking a chord with the anti-establishment mood that was at its fever pitch then.

Director: Sydney Pollack
Genre: Western/Revisionist Western
Language: English
Country: US


Sam Juliano said...

This is a remarkable sensory western that makes superb use of weather and naturalistic setting. It's too often overlooked!

Great review!

Shubhajit said...

Yes, it hardly ever gets mentioned even during discussions on Westerns. Thanks.