The Gross National Debt

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jeremiah Johnson - a look at a movie 42 years old

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
 .
.
 .
.
 .
.
.
.


At the suggestion of Mike Moore, I watched Jeremiah Johnson. It helped that Mike supplied the DVD.

When the credits rolled, I decided I did not care for the movie.

As I’ve since had time to partly digest what I saw, I am no longer certain I don’t like the movie. To be sure there are parts of the movie which I do not care for. There are parts that still have me thinking and anything that makes me think is a VERY good thing.

What makes me think:

One man, new and alone in the wild. How did he make it? What kind of challenges did he face? What was most rewarding about being alone? What did he miss? What would he change? Why did he do the things he did? What did he leave behind and why? These questions are far deeper than these simple words.

As someone who periodically wonders about moving into The Bush to live, this struck a real chord with me. There are places in this world where a determined and intelligent person can live like that. Getting away from “civilization” appeals to me immensely. Judging from the popularity of the movie, this strikes a resonant chord with a lot of people.

The depth of the character of Jeremiah Johnson in this movie leaves me not really wanting more, but yes, wanting more. I think it hit the right balance of development. Imagination can take flight. I like it.

The fights, to the death in the movie, with the Indians (Ok, Native Americans if you wanna be PC) bother me the most. I am glad the fight scenes were very brief, else I would not have finished watching the movie. Some people need to be killed, child molesters come to mind, and I’m decidedly OK with that. If necessary, I can and will kill someone in self defense. But the idea of killing in war … it’s partly the idea of war that I can’t handle and partly the idea of killing another person without good reason. The movie had plenty of killing for no good reason by my definition.

What I do like-

It was shot entirely on location in Utah. If it did not snow there, I'd want to live there.

Paints His Shirt Red had a double-barrel muzzleloader that was a shotgun on one side (smoothbore) and a rifle (rifled barrel) on the other. Such guns were actually made. I have seen pictures of them. Now, I want one.

From what I know of the clothes at the time, they are accurate.

So, what I do not like, incongruities bother me, a lot -

The firearms in the movie are supposed to be black powder. What was fired in the movie was not. A smokepole generates so much smoke from firing that you literally cannot see your target after shooting if there is no wind.

Jeremiah wanted a .50 Hawken. A fine rifle to be sure, but the most common size was .54 with rifles up to .68. Considering he planned to have a gun capable of taking out a grizzly, a .50 is marginal. However, in the movie he was also a green horn, so I can excuse part of this.

The recoil he experienced when shooting the .50 is entirely Hollywood. I’ve shot a .50 with 150 grains of powder under a 320 grain bullet. That was far more power than Jeremiah was packing and the recoil was still nowhere on the level of Robert Redford’s overacting.

With a much shooting as he likely needed to do, he needed more powder & bullets. Where and when did he get ‘em? That could be in the scenes where he met with other trappers, or understood that he did so when he traded hides. Just makes me wonder.

Blood doesn’t dry bright red on leather, to wit the hole in his jerkin after the wolf attack.

So, do I like the movie? I am not sure. Even after writing this column about it, I am not sure. What I am sure of is, I’ll be thinking on this movie for a long time to come. Very very very few movies have ever had this effect on me. Plenty of books have.

Would I recommend the movie? Without any reservation or hesitation, yes.

No comments:

Post a Comment