Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Dark Silence

I was re-watching two westerns recently which I wanted to briefly mention on here. Btw, I don’t really watch that many westerns these days. I have to be in the right mood to do that. That mood came during this past week.

I was mentioning in a few blogs back about the meaning for the term “silence” on here. I gave the general concept I have been using as my theme throughout the blog. I said something briefly, which I have mentioned before, in that one must remember “nature does not play by rules.” Meaning, nature can be very destructive and unpredictable. Even if one is well prepared random events can happen even for the most experienced mountain man.

Just recently out near an area I have hiked before there was a guy with friends who got lost. When I heard the story on the news I immediately said my above quote. Why in the world would people go hiking in the evening, in an area you do not know about, and on a very cold day (not to mention a freezing night). He was lucky. They found him, and all he came away with was hypothermia.

The western I was watching again was Charles Bronson’s Chato’s Land. I was able to see the “uncut” version that has an extra 15 seconds. There was an issue with the way the horses were used that some countries cut out. When I originally saw this movie I was not super impressed. It seemed like a typical revenge story with the Apache Chato (Bronson) getting revenge on a posse led Jack Palance (and by a bunch of well known actors).

While a lot of the analysis of this movie has connected it with the issues of the Vietnam War, which does make sense, after my recent viewing I started to think it connected with the darker version of nature that I mentioned above. The posse with Jack Palance is after Chato to avenge the death of a local he killed in town. The viewer of the movie knows the act was clearly in self-defense, but it is not clear the posse does.

Anyways, the posse is led out into rocky, sandy desert setting. As the movie goes on, Chato starts picking them off from the distance. There comes a point about an hour into the movie that Jack Palance makes a comparison about how the white men view the land they are in compared to the Apache. They start realizing that Chato has used the land to his advantage against them.

While I don’t like to overanalyze western movies because I think the simple explanations of what the writer/director are doing is the best, but I like the idea that Chato is actually part of nature the posse finds themselves in. That he represents the environment itself. When the characters start to realize they have walked into nature’s trap it is too late.

It is interesting that Bronson only had two lines of English in this movie and a few lines of Apache that are not subtitled for the viewer. He is very much a silent character in this movie. As an aside, he had a very ripped body for an actor his age in this movie. Just amazing shape.

So, if you have seen this movie or not, you might want to watch it with this interpretation in mind. Whether you have experience or not, are alert or not, have good moral character or not, the wilderness out there does not care. When heading out into the backcountry it is a calculated risk. Part of the fun of it for me is the unknown, but I do want to be able to return home as well.

The other western that I thought of as a good companion piece is The Stalking Moon with Gregory Peck. Both movies in my view have some flaws to them and this one more so. The Stalking Moon has some good moments in it, but I think it could have been better. Still, some of the ideas in both movies can be easily compared with each other.