This was the biggest surprise in my “Into the West” film festival. I picked it partly to do with it’s having a good reputation, but mostly for diversity. It ended up being one of the best of the set of films I picked, maybe even number one. Much to praise, but if I had to pick one moment that stuck out it was the dissolve from the mountain range into the caravan on the plain, which blew my mind.
all felt sharp rather than dreamlike, as opposed to Picnic @ Hanging Rock or Days of Heaven, scenes were beautiful but nothing felt rich, although the dissolving of one landscape into another was incredible to see. not as captivating as expected, viewer is spared the lunacy that comes with scarcity, but use of sound & attention given each tight lipped character allowed for interesting & insightful play between them
An exercise in slow submersion as Reichardt gradually aligns us with Williams' Tetherow to the effect of bewilderment. Initially as lost in darkness, deafness and otherness as the characters seem from the land, we center at a moral quandary that America seems built on: what if the loudest & most ruthless don't know what they're doing? The use of audio for perception, the tableaux of scenery, all excellent.
It's easier to say what this movie is not meant to be about: western, women emancipation, leadership or indians. It's about sheer desperation. Imagine; how terrible the home of these people must have been, so they have decided to move... to nowhere. Like emigrants from Mexico or Syria/Aleppo. On the other hand this movie is so unemotional; and that is the most important shortcoming. You just watch, but don't share.
Treat this as a meditation on trust instead of a western survival epic. Reichardt and Raymond subvert myths about the rugged frontierspeople (they are lost and disoriented) and the Indian scout, who is unknowable but not fierce. All are cast in a deadly frontier where there should be no place for narrow thinking. The film's flaws lie in its ambiguous ending but Reichardt's vision of outsiders and place is strong.