Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Wind River (Part II) (2017)

January 21, 2017 (Sundance Film Festival), August 4, 2017 (United States), release dates
Directed by Taylor Sheridan
Screenplay by Taylor Sheridan
Music by Nick Cave, Warren Ellis
Edited by Gary D. Roach
Cinematography by Ben Richardson

Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert
Julia Jones as Wilma Lambert
Teo Briones as Casey Lambert
Graham Greene as Ben Shoyo
Elizabeth Olsen as Jane Banner
Gil Birmingham as Martin Hanson, Natalie’s father
Kelsey Chow as Natalie Hanson
Jon Bernthal as Matt Rayburn
Martin Sensmeier as Chip Hanson, Natalie’s brother
Tyler Laracca as Frank Walker
Gerald Tokala Clifford as Sam Littlefeather
James Jordan as Pete Mickens
Eric Lange as Dr. Whitehurst
Ian Bohen as Evan, deputy officer
Hugh Dillon as Curtis
Matthew Del Negro as Dillon
Tantoo Cardinal as Alice Crowheart, Wilma’s mother
Apesanahkwat as Dan Crowheart, Wilma’s father
Althea Sam as Annie Hanson, Natalie’s mother

Distributed by Acacia Entertainment
Produced by Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, Savvy Media Holding, Thunder Road Pictures, Film 44

This is my second post about Wind River, and this time I plan to focus on the writing, specifically the poem that is so important to the film. I could appreciate the beauty of the poetic language the first time that I saw Wind River. The poem itself is vital to the structure of the film, but its importance did not really strike me until I saw the film a second time. It is another reason, besides all the clues in the visuals, to see Wind River more than once.

Click here for my first blog post about Wind River.

The film opens with the words “INSPIRED BY ACTUAL EVENTS,” which fade away to a black screen, and viewers hear a woman’ voice-over reciting two and a half stanzas of a poem (see the full text of the poem at the end of this post):
There’s a meadow in my perfect world
where wind dances the branches of a tree
casting leopard spots of light across the face of a pond.
The tree stands tall and grand and alone,
[at this point, the black fades to reveal a woman running across a snowy field at night; she is crying]
shading the world beneath it.

. . . It is here, in the cradle of all I hold dear,
I guard every memory of you.

And when I find myself frozen in the mind of the real—
far from your loving eyes, I will return to this place,
close mine, and take solace in the simple perfection
of knowing you.

(This blog post about Wind River contains spoilers.)

About halfway through the film (at 00:58:37), viewers learn that the poem was written by Cory Lambert’s daughter Emily before she died, presumably suffering the same fate as Natalie Hanson, who is the woman running across a field of snow at the start of the film. Cory keeps a framed and illustrated copy of Emily’s poem on his wall, in tribute to his daughter. When Jane Banner, the FBI agent investigating Natalie Hanson’s murder, visits him to discuss their investigation, she finds the poem and asks about it. Cory tells her, “It’s what got her [Emily] accepted into the summer writing program at Colorado State.”

Click here for another blog post about the film, and click here for a blog post celebrating the poem itself. Note the screen shot from the film featuring the poem.

Later in the film, Cory Lambert follows the tracks from the Littlefeathers’ residence to an outcropping on a mountain, where he can see the oil rig, where Natalie’s boyfriend Matt Rayburn worked, in the distance.  Shots of Cory Lambert’s tracking are interwoven with shots of Jane Banner, the federal agent; Ben Shoyo, the tribal police chief; and three tribal police officers on their way to the oil rig to search Matt Rayburn’s trailer. On the soundtrack is a male voice whispering several lines from Emily’s poem and an extra line that was difficult to hear:
Far from your loving eyes,
in a place where winter never comes.
Far from your loving eyes,
all along the wind I run.
Far from your loving eyes,
I return to a place . . .
The fourth line is beautiful, and I just hope I heard it and transcribed it correctly. It’s the one line that is not part of Emily’s poem.

The oil rig is the scene of several acts of violence. It is what Natalie was running from the night of her death. The poem, written by her best friend Emily Lambert, seems to guide Emily’s father Cory toward the conclusion of his search and the conclusion of the investigation in general. The voice-over of some of the lines made this clear to me because the poem underscores his motivation for joining the investigation in the first place.

The writing is exquisite in Wind River. The fact that the words of Emily’s poem are meaningfully integrated throughout make the writing even more outstanding. The poem keeps the memory of both Emily and Natalie alive, and both are vitally important to the story and to Cory Lambert’s motivation. These two female characters were never very far from Taylor Sheridan’s thoughts, I would say, as he wrote the screenplay. And he integrates them into the narrative expertly to keep them in the viewers’ thoughts, too.

Emily Lambert and Natalie Hanson are important for another reason, which becomes clear in the last shot of the film. Cory Lambert and Natalie’s father Martin Hanson sit in the snow in front of Martin’s house. Their backs are to the camera, and viewers see them at a short distance, as though they are standing just inside Martin’s front door. Superimposed above the two men are the following words:
While missing person statistics are compiled for every other
demographic, none exist for Native American women.
When they fade, they are replaced by the following:
No one knows how many are missing.
Emily’s and Natalie’s stories may be fictional, but they are all too common in the United States. The even greater tragedy is that no one in the U.S. government is paying attention.

Here is the complete text of Emily Lambert’s poem from Wind River.

“A Meadow in my Perfect World”
by Emily Lambert
(or Taylor Sheridan? I couldn’t find anything online to indicate otherwise)

There’s a meadow in my perfect world
where wind dances the branches of a tree
casting leopard spots of light across the face of a pond.
The tree stands tall and grand and alone,
shading the world beneath it.

There will come a day when I rest
against its spine and look out over a valley
where the sun warms, but never burns . . .

I will watch leaves turn
green, then amber, then crimson.
Then no leaves at all . . .

But the tree will not die
For in this place, winter never comes . . .
It is here, in the cradle of all I hold dear,
I guard every memory of you.

And when I find myself frozen in the mind of the real—
far from your loving eyes, I will return to this place,
close mine, and take solace in the simple perfection
of knowing you.

2 comments:

  1. I've tried my best to catch the fourth line and this is what I've got...

    "..all alone in the wind I ran.."

    Yours:-
    Far from your loving eyes,
    in a place where winter never comes.
    Far from your loving eyes,
    all along the wind I run.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sabran Hamzah, thank you so much for your contribution. I am repeating the verse with both lines side-by-side here:

      Far from your loving eyes,
      in a place where winter never comes.
      Far from your loving eyes,
      all alone in the wind I ran. | all along the wind I run.
      Far from your loving eyes,
      I return to a place . . .

      Maybe others will also be able to help us clarify the poem's wording. I find the poem haunting and beautiful.

      Delete