Sunday, February 19, 2012

Meek's Cutoff and Seven Alone once again

From Meek's Cutoff.

How the hell did I even get on the subject of Seven Alone and why am I still writing about it?

Anyway, I watched Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff last night. A beautiful film. Starting with a long sequence without dialog of the settlers crossing a river. Three covered wagons have left the main trail led by buckskin-clad frontiersman Stephen Meek. They're taking an alternative route so as to avoid hostile Indians, but the settlers have their doubts as to whether Meek knows where he's going.

The real events it was based on were much worse. Meek had led a wagon train off the Oregon Trail. He took them on a course that was so tough that many of them died, many of the animals died, and when they reached the Oregon high desert, territory which Meek claimed to know like the back of his hand, the look on his face "changed to one of complete bewilderment, as if he were seeing the country for the first time," to quote a contemporary source. He had no idea what he was doing. Meek fled the wagon train. He learned that a man whose two sons had died was going to kill him.

Seven Alone again

To contrast Meek's Cutoff with Seven Alone on one point, there's a kid in Meek's Crossing, a very nice boy who wanders away from the camp playing and exploring. His mother tells him, "If you do it again you're father will have to know!" Their parenting style was somewhat more laid back and more plausible. They acted like human beings.

As I said in earlier entries, Seven Alone was a G-rated "family film", produced in Utah in the 1970s. It was based very loosely on the true story of the seven Sager orphans. Their parents died on the Oregon trail. In the movie (but not in real life) the orphans travel on alone across snow-covered mountains and travel down a river on a raft they built and finally reach Oregon.

The father in Seven Alone had his panties constantly in a bunch. He was constantly berating, beating and at one point kicking his eldest son, his eyes bulging, in a constant state of rage. And this was presented as if he were being a good father. And some people actually consider this normal. One user commented on Netflix:
"If it had been fiction, I would have hated it due to the eldest brother's rebellion, laziness, and disrespect. I did appreciate how the father tried to discipline him, but apparently, it was not consistant or enough. By the end, he did seem to grow up, but I had to keep pointing out to my children that his behavior was NOT acceptable."
I watched the two movies together. Meek's Cutoff and Seven Alone, a bizarre double feature, films offering points of contrast and comparison. Both low budget, about historically-related events. One a work of art, the other, just awful.

No comments: