The Wind Movie Review
Written by Ren Zelen
Released by Signature Entertainment
Directed by Emma Tammi
Written by Teresa Sutherland
2018, 87 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Frightfest English Premiere on 23rd August 2019
Caitlin Gerard as Lizzy Macklin
Julia Goldani Telles as Emma Harper
Ashley Zukerman as Isaac Macklin
Miles Anderson as The Reverend
Dylan McTee as Gideon Harper
Jean-Paul Sartre once said that ‘Hell is other people’, and there are times when we might feel that with conviction, but have we ever considered how we would deal with absolute isolation and constant solitude?
The Wind, a feature by director Emma Tammi and writer Theresa Sutherland, is set in the late 1800s and focuses on a pioneering couple, Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard) and Isaac (Ashley Zukerman), that have chosen to build a life on the far reaches of the American plains. It’s hard to see how such a move might seem like a good idea for folks used to the conveniences of civilized life, and it was rarely a decision made by a 19th century wife, who had little choice but to follow the ambitions of her husband.
Lizzy and Isaac’s cabin is isolated – there are no people for miles – there is nothing in sight but barren, windswept hills stretching towards the horizon. Isaac must often take trips away from home, taking their only horse to fetch supplies from the nearest town, a round trip that might take several days. Meanwhile, Lizzy is left alone.
The film opens with a tragedy which provides the pivotal event around which the story revolves. Barely a word is spoken in the first scene, the sound of the relentless wind being foremost.
Scenes are not in linear or chronological order – they are shown as they are recalled by Lizzy in her solitude (not as she originally experienced them) but the events leading up the central calamity are gradually revealed.
Back to an earlier time and we see Lizzy and Isaac setting into their homestead. They are both hard-working and resourceful, but aware of their solitude and desolation. It comes as a welcome relief from the grind of the daily routine when, coming home from one of his trips to town, Isaac brings the news that they now have new neighbours, albeit over a mile away.
The neighbours are duly invited to dinner and, as they all get to know each other, it becomes clear that Emma Harper (Julia Goldani Telles) the pretty wife, is not happy about being taken from the comforts of town, especially as she and husband Gideon (Dylan McTee) seem woefully inexperienced when it comes to cooking, farming, building or woodwork. It’s not long before Emma begins to develop an admiration for the practical, manly skills of neighbour Isaac.
As the men ride off to town, in typical western style. What is cinematically untypical is that we are left confined in the homestead along with the women. The wind maintains an insistent moan, punctuated only by interludes of oppressive silence.
Before the neighbours arrived, Lizzy was pregnant. She clung to the preparations, to the routine of tasks and to her religious beliefs, but her faith was shattered with the loss of her baby. Now, instead of giving her comfort, the visits from her friendly but flighty neighbour Emma and concerns about her growing attention to Isaac, merely fuel her own inner conflict.
Neighbour Emma then falls pregnant, but simultaneously falls prey to a mental breakdown. Having been through a pregnancy herself, Lizzy is recruited by the hapless men to deal with the crisis – which may have been exacerbated by the women struggling to fend off panic regarding the pregnancy and the challenge of raising a family so far from civilization.
While the men were absent, Emma confided her superstitious beliefs to Lizzy. On their journey they had come across an itinerant preacher (Miles Anderson) who had slipped a sensationally illustrated pamphlet to Emma. It outlined the various demons that haunt the prairies, and these images and Emma’s delirious chatter about devils began to infiltrate Lizzy's own psyche, bringing to the surface fears she had been determined to repress.
The men, free to come and go as they please, able to mix with people in the towns, are insensible to the psychological toll the solitude and alienation is taking on the women left behind. The pleas of their wives to escape the malevolence they feel from these vast plains fall on deaf ears, dismissed as the nightmares of pregnant and overly sensitive women.
After the central calamity occurs, Lizzy is again left in her loneliness. The unremitting wind transforms into a malicious force, which brings forth vicious beasts and blank-eyed, shape-shifting demons that infiltrate the dark while Isaac is gone.
What makes The Wind such a bleak yet engaging tale, is that we have previously had little chance to consider what life on the frontier may have been like for the woman left stranded and isolated in the vast solitude of the plains. Westerns have dealt mostly with stories of male experience and action. We have not particularly examined what toll the experience of grinding routine, loneliness, illness, pregnancy, childbirth and loss might have taken on the women left in the homesteads.
What makes Lizzy's story so striking is the unsentimental and unsparing way that director Tammi and writer Sutherland tell it. Over the movie's 87-minute runtime, they manage to maintain Lizzy as a sympathetic character, even though we soon learn that she may not be a reliable narrator.
Initially, Lizzy is steadfast, refusing to succumb during her husband’s frequent absences, but it’s pertinent that a punishment for troublesome prisoners is ‘solitary confinement’. With each challenge she tries to think way out of the situation, but her alienation and growing despair begin to take hold.
Deprived of human interaction, malevolent presences begin to materialize out of the prairie wastes, but it is difficult to discern whether what we’re being shown is authentic or whether they are hallucinatory manifestations of Lizzy’s state of mind. Viewers are left to decide, which makes the film all the more captivating.
The Wind offers compelling performances by all involved and director Emma Tammi shows masterful control of her medium. The originality of Teresa Sutherland’s screenplay, blending western, drama and horror, upholds the argument that more women writers and directors be given the opportunity to give us a fresh perspective on some tired and familiar genres.
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