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George S. Fleming,
Edwin S. Porter
James H. White
Thanks to the Fresh Air Fund, a slum child escapes his drunken mother for a day's outing in the country. Upon arriving, he and the other children are told a story about a mythical land of no pain. Rather then return to the slum at day's end, the lad seeks to journey to that beautiful land beyond the sunset.Written by
Thomas McWilliams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Made as a promotional short for the New York Fresh Air Fund, a charity whose purpose is to get poor kids out of the city for the summer and spend some time out in the country. The organization still exists. See more »
This thoughtful, memorable drama is the kind of movie that sticks with you after it is over, and it provides some thoughtful, sensitive commentary on problems that are, unfortunately, still all too present in our society. It is also one of the best Edison Company films of the 1910s, and while they did make a fair number of entertaining movies during this time, "The Land Beyond the Sunset" stands out in addressing a sensitive subject without resorting to easy answers.
The story focuses on Joe, a young newsboy living in a squalid situation, who one day has the opportunity for a pleasant outing in the country, courtesy of the Fresh Air Fund. The story is simple, but it portrays the characters quite realistically. For a time, you expect to see an upbeat if pat resolution of Joe's struggles, but the finale is much better than that. Another reviewer here has very aptly described its "haunting ambiguity", because indeed it rejects all easy answers, leaving the viewer challenged to think for himself or herself.
There are also a couple of fine moments on the technical side. The one that stands out most of all is the crucial scene when the children on the outing are listening to the fairy tale told them by their well-meaning hosts. The composition is excellent, catching the detail in the foreground with a partial glimpse of the expanse of water in the background, fitting in nicely with the content of the story and the situation. Then there is added a double exposure shot that communicates exactly what Joe is thinking, nicely setting up the finale.
It all works very well, and is well worth taking the time to watch if you have any interest in silent dramas.
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