US | 2018 | Directed by Emma Tammi
Logline: On a desolate Western frontier prairie a woman is forced to deal with isolation and an increasing sense of fear as the landscape encroaches like a darkness.
Having made a couple of documentaries Emma Tammi has delivered her first feature. From an original screenplay by Teresa Sutherland, The Wind tells the tale of Lizzy Macklin (Caitlin Gerard), an 1800s plains-woman, married to Isaac (Ashley Zukerman), who frequently leaves her alone in their isolated cabin. She is suffering from post-natal depression following a stillborn baby. The arrival of neighbours, another cabin visible a mile away, initially keeps her occupied, as Emma and Gideon Harper (Julia Golden Telles and Dylan McTee), are expecting also.
Weathered in a rich atmosphere, laden with a creeping sense of doom, The Wind smoulders with supernatural intent, yet never allows its audience to feel too comfortable with what is reality and what might be going on inside poor Lizzy’s fragile mind. And what happened to Emma? In the opening scene she is being buried in an open casket, half her head is missing, due to some horrific injury. No doubt a shotgun blast. Lizzy has had to cut the stillborn baby from Emma’s belly, and it’s buried along with her mother. It’s a macabre opening to an eerie movie filled with foreboding.
Utilising a non-linear narrative, that flashes back and forth, in a way reflecting the flighty and file nature of Emma. The Wind focuses on Lizzy’s increasingly tenuous grip on reality. There is something out there, and it’s not just the hungry wolves. A pamphlet Emma was harbouring illustrates the many demons of the prairie, folk lore that seemingly conjures many different forms of ill will and paranoia. “I don’t expect God has much business out here,” Lizzy tells the traveling reverend (Miles Anderson). He is playing his cards close to his cloth, his shadow against the cabin wall suggests he might not be all he appears to be.
Tammi’s assured as a feature director, with beautifully composed “classic” Western imagery, and some terrific old school horror touches - those shadows on the wall - while she elicits fantastic performances, especially Caitlin Gerard. I find it so refreshing to see such a well-made independent genre flick - and the kind that isn’t made too often - with excellent actors I’m not familiar with at all. What’s more the casting is spot on, as they call possess that classic “Western” look of beauty (rugged, handsome, wistful, forlorn). They blend with their surroundings in an effortless way.
Adding serious punch to the movie is Ben Lovatt’s score, full of melancholy and menace in equal measure. Westerns are often weighed down by overt orchestration. Tammi skilfully uses Lovatt’s music to punctuate the narrative, giving breath and poise, then hammering with insidious dread. And, of course, the prairie wind never seems to stop, whispering, beckoning, stealing, consuming.
The Wind deserves a big screen viewing, hopefully local distributors Umbrella Entertainment gives it a theatrical release following its Sydney Film Festival screenings, it’s definitely one of the more original and memorable genre offerings so far this year.