The Man from Laramie
This film will be shown as a part of the cinema course ‘The Return of the Western’.
This also applies to the lecture (in Dutch) Het (berg)landschap in de Western on Thursday 4 November (see below).
As is the case more often, the mountain landscape has an important role in this Western. Besides the beautiful images it makes for, director Mann also uses the landscape tell us something about the characters and the psychology of the main figures in his film.
Will Lockhart (James Stewart) is the man from Laramie who goes looking for the killer of his brother in New Mexico. His brother was gunned down by Apaches, armed with automatic weapons. Will goes in search of the man who sold the native Americans these weapons. His suspicions are soon drawn to the son of a wealthy cattle rancher who terrorises both the town and the local surroundings.
In the 1950’s director Anthony Mann made fifty wonderful Westerns with James Stewart, each of which excelled in its visual grandeur and sense of inner dilemma: Winchester ’73 (1950), Bend of the River (1952), The Naked Spur (1953), The Far Country (1954) and The Man from Laramie. Their final collaboration is perhaps the best. It was an ambitious film which was presented as the Western version of Shakespeare’s King Lear. James Stewart is a lone avenger set on avenging the death of his brother.
With James Stewart, Donald Crisp and Arthur Kennedy
The (mountain) landscape in the Western
Scorching deserts, endless prairies, deep canyons and almost inpenetrable mountains. These are the landscapes of the West. There is no other genre where the landscape plays such a significant role than in the Western. But within this genre, the landscape is so much more than just a backdrop. The Western is a genre that thrives on contradictions and perhaps the most important contradiction, as Jim Kitses wrote in his book ‘Horizon West’, is that between ‘Wilderness’ (i.e. nature) and ‘Civilization’ (i.e. culture) from where all other contradictions stem. The landscape is therefore the driver of the drama and takes on the status of a character, rather than a set.
In the 1950s, director Anthony Mann gave the Western a new impulse with a number of extraordinary films. It was the (mountain) landscape in the Westerns which he made in particular. The mountain landscape produced impressive images in all of those films, but for Mann it was especially important to show how the characters of the protagonists and the psychology were influenced by the landscape around them.