In Meek’s Cutoff, a caravan of families, led by explorer Stephen Meek, set out for a new and prosperous life via the Oregon trail. Desperate for basic necessities, they decide to spare the life of an ostensibly dangerous Indian they meet along the way, all in hopes that he will expedite them to precious, precious water.
This film is so blatantly aware of its, what I might usually consider to be, faults, that I can’t help but pay it some admiration. Director Kelly Reichardt was infatuated with conveying a sense of distance: visually, through extreme long shots; temporally, through painstaking dissolves; audibly, through overheard conversations; narratively, through the unending wilderness remaining to be crossed; in relation to gender, as we experience the critical decisions of men from the far end of a sensorial chasm; spiritually and musically, as the hymns of both Puritan and Indian plead for some gods to come nearer in hours of need. Unfortunately, it should not be surprising that a film so focused on distance falls short of the emotional mark. Meek’s Cutoff is a stunted film that never draws us close enough to care about the emotional trajectory of its characters or the implications of the film’s laudable technique.
- Meek’s Cutoff (Reichardt 2010) @ Sundance Kabuki Cinemas #SFIFF