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.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.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.
What lifts it to the rank of a masterpiece is the passion of the direction and camera-work, and it certainly shows the advantage in having a mature artist like director Victor Sjöström. The central character is, as promised, the wind, and the raw power of nature supersedes the melodrama. You become engulfed in the tempests and hurricanes, and it is only to easy to understand that they might drive the young lady mad.
Lillian Gish also does a magnificent job; her usual overacting is actually appropriate for this role, as the powerful cinematic images have established the likeliness that she is falling to pieces. This surely has to be her greatest performance. Dorothy Cumming is also equally powerful as the embittered "other woman", one of the most evil characters to be found in a western. The other actors are adequate and satisfying without rising to the level of genius. Their acting is natural and unforced, unlike most silents.
It definitely gains from being a silent movie, all that dialogue would become a distraction if we had to listen to it. It helps that Thames Silents Orchestra has composed a beautiful and moving soundtrack, one that would sound good on a CD recording.
If you have any appreciation for silent film, rush out and get this one today!
PS Everyone seems to hate the studio-imposed ending, including Gish herself. Well, they are wrong! The Wind was going to end with Gish escaping the bad guy's advances by fleeing into a sandstorm and perishing...typical Victorian tragic melodrama, the sort of thing spoofed by Chaplin and other comedians.
What we get instead is considerably more complex and interesting, and contains some of the best scenes in the movie. I won't give the credit to the studio execs who demanded the revised ending; obviously, Sjöström was a genius who knew how to work wonders with whatever material he was given.
- Jul 1, 2004