Self and Other

film 1 of 5

The Silent Enemy

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Jun 18, 2015

The prologue encapsulates Bazin’s ontology (preserving what’s dead) and especially Flaherty, who obviously influenced this (some authenticity in rendering indigenous crafts, hunger as the basic challenge of primitive life); it’s strongest when that influence is most direct, in the opening, very beautiful scenes of village life, the attention to little tasks there, the fine birch canoe and the sun shining on the water, the happy moments at the end, in these sections the story doesn’t get in the way; the conventionalized melodrama works much less well, Black Pete and Mickey fighting over a pretty uninflected Minny, interesting how European types are grafted onto this apparently indigenous story, sinister medicine man, who fakes a revelation! (the vision of the cache which he’d actually stumbled upon), noble patriarch who represents a purer, more natural, significantly non-institutionalized spirituality–actually reminiscent of A Mormon Maid!–handsome noble type, this time well and charismatically played by Long Lance, who significantly, though he’s really the star, is not even mentioned anywhere in the film; here’s what RF was fighting, the notion that you have to lard up life with artifice to make it palatable or entertaining, though of course RF also did his own kind of larding; the snow cinematography’s impressive, the caribou run too, and the moment when the old chief dies and some almost non-diegetic towering trees topple beside is very poetic.