The Wind Film Details
Overview: A frail young woman from the east moves in with her cousin in the west, where she causes tension within the family and is slowly driven mad.
Review: Most Victor Sjostrom films follow the same idea – a perfectly likable lead character is mercilessly sent down the drainpipe – but the changing of the setting, and the changing of the character, and the changing of the drainpipe, sees each of his films capture a different mood, and bring out different ideas along the way. ‘The Wind’ is possibly his most acclaimed work, yet my least favorite so far. Set in desert USA, after being kicked out by her hosts, a penniless Lillian Gish, for the simple need of shelter and money, is forced to marry a local oaf, where, as you might guess, things do not go well for her. In this environment wind is ceaseless, blowing a gale from first to last, sending dust everywhere. When doors open dust blows in. Hair and clothes are constantly wafting about, and if you wish to play a drinking game while watching this film (anyone?), have a shot every time someone brushes dirt from their clothes, and see if you can still stand by the end of it. This wind is not an incredible force of nature however, it is an incredible force of filmmaking, as the goal is not to capture a particular environment in a particular part of the world, but to use it as a metaphor. The meaning is open to interpretation, but title cards at the beginning, as well as the general way things unfold, show to me that the wind is a representation of man – an ever present battering force, relentless, unforgiving and unclean, which the women are forever sheltering indoors from, and forever having to clean from the pots and pans, and forever having to sweep from the floors. You won’t be surprised to learn then that the idea for this film was a woman’s – Lillian Gish’s – and while it may effectively communicate how she feels, it is very much a one eyed view. All the men are painted as fools, and the only time the film seeks to find virtue in them is the finale, where Gish finally seems to realise her husband has done a lot of good by her, and chooses to embrace him. Tellingly though, this ending was not in the original script, and was only tacked on by the studios who wanted a happy ending. If Gish had her way, the character would have eventually walked out into the windy desert to die. As if to say, in a world dominated by men, women can have no success. Instead, she proclaims, ‘I no longer fear the wind!’ Yes, a title card actually says that. If the film paints men crudely though, it doesn’t paint women in a much nicer light. The only female character of note besides Lillian Gish is portrayed as nothing but a jealous wife, who upon seeing her husband do little more than welcome Gish with hugs and conversation, evicts their attractive female friend, which is actually the very action that lands her in all the tragedy. One might assume the film is attempting to tell us that husbands cannot be trusted and her actions justified, but instead, what we learn is that this particular woman’s jealousy will have dire consequences. The lack of subtlety in all of this really undermines the tension, for it feels more like an essay than a story. It was only by the end of the film – with the body in the desert sand – that I realized the ‘The Wind’ is a kind of precursor to Hitchcockian suspense – which shows the problem – it was a suspense film without the suspense. To be fair, many women in times gone by, and still places today, have been helpless to change their circumstances due to the political limitations placed on them by men, and suffered without option for escape – but no title cards, nor any of the images, detail anything political here – which makes this a film about gender in general, as opposed to politics specifically – which is why I think it makes such a poor argument. The film is not without virtue however. In one excellent scene, Gish’s new husband, wishing to spend time with his new wife, enters her room, at which point she heartbreakingly rejects him, revealing she married not for love. It is the best scene in the film not because it is the only one painting the male as a victim, but because it is the only one of complexity – where the film is not finger pointing, or rather, where the finger could be pointed in multiple directions – where the culprit seems to be the difficulties of life, as opposed to a whole gender. The film is also well paced, Lillian Gish, despite my quarrels with the story, gives an excellent performance, and the setting, with its incessant wind and dirt, does manage to capture a unique and memorable mood, which is effective for the purpose.
Country: United States
Language: None, English
Duration: 95 min
Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller
Also known as: Stormen,Stürme,A szél,El vent,The Wind,Вятърът,Вeтер,A sivatag lilioma,Vento e Areia,Il vento,O anemos,風（1928）,El viento,La rosa de los vientos,Vântul,Vetar,Le vent,Der Wind,O Vento,Wicher