Saturday, September 23, 2006

Seraphim Falls

Seraphim Falls is a story that illustrates the phrase "I'll hunt you down to the ends of the earth." It is a revenge story. A man is hunted by another man intent on murder, revenge? Along the way the hunted and the hunter(s) come accross a wide variety of humanity. The chance met fellow travelers becomes more and more metaphorical as the trip continues. They ride around groups concerned with the now and the hereafter. They both meet the three thieves. On the edge of the desert is the keeper of the water. Deep in the desert is the professional liar.

The reason for the vendetta is that SPOILER the hunted, union officer Gideon, led a company to scour the farm of a the chief hunter, rebel officer Col Craver. In the process of chastising the reb the barn is fired, this catches the farmhouse on fire. The burning farmhouse consumes Craver's family, wife, son and baby. This causes a degree of resentment and anger.

This is a traditional western in the wide open spaces. There is an important art direction change. Many westerns are set in the same landscape. Many westerns have been filmed in Monument Valley. Even though the images of this area is spectactual so many movies filmed in the same area adds to much history and context to each shot. This film allows the landscape to tell the story. The story begins in the up in the mountains is chased down to foothills to the the plains and finallly to the salt flats of the dead desert..

There is a historical inconsistancy at the heart of the film. There was a lot destruction in Georgia but much of was done during the war not afterwards in the mopping up. This damage was part of a legal assault on the slave state. When Sherman was famously Marching Accross Georgia there was a wholesale wreckage of property and infrastructure. Not just the destruction of tranportation links like railroads and bridges but also the agriculture infrastructue of farms, barns and farmhouses were all, after being looted, burned. All this ruination was not the result of outlaw actions by uncontrolled(able) troops a but a legal method of denying resources to the enemy.

What I learned: It is better to wipe out a family or clan then leave someone alive to take vengence on you.

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