It's every bit as good as everyone is saying. I found in it shades of Picnic at Hanging Rock, Waiting for Godot, Lifepod/Cube (essentially sci-fi remakes of Lifeboat, which I haven't yet seen) without the murderer, and (visually) Days of Heaven. I was amazed that the aspect ratio was so effective at conveying the large empty spaces. In fact, I wonder if the aspect ratio is somehow responsible for suggesting the ironically confining nature of the wide open spaces. I loved the sound editing. The rumble of the wagons was so often like thunder. Did anyone else besides me wonder if the Native American was mentally ill? Everyone knows someone like Meek, don't they? Some of the emigrants thought he was evil and leading them astray on purpose, but he seemed more to me like one of those people who doesn't know when and how to admit that they're wrong (or lost). That said, it's interesting to read that in the actual historical version, at least one person (Tetherow, actually) felt that Meek was succumbing too much to the whims of the people, and then they were criticizing him for it. Of course, the movie is very little like the historical account. From the little bit I know about the westward expansion, it was rare for so few wagons to travel together. Also, Meek brought a new wife along for the infamous journey.
Michelle Williams: wow, what a performance! I've seen a few of her films, but Incendiary, a much different role, was the only I recalled without looking it up. I loved Wendy and Lucy, but, you know, the brown hair threw me off and I didn't recognize her.
I knew it has a "what the heck" ending, but endings like that still throw you off, even if you're expecting them. I have a habit of watching the time elapsed on some movies (tense ones especially) to try to predict what's going to happen next. And when there were only 15 minutes left in the movie and they didn't seen anywhere close to any kind of resolution, I had a feeling we weren't going to get an easy ending.
Of course I thought of Tree of Life at the end--it was a literal connection, obviously, but I'd already had Malick in mind throughout the film due to the quiet and contemplative attention to detail. The end is also when I thought of Waiting for Godot (I'm referring to the play, by the way--I haven't seen any of the film adaptations).
The sense of foreboding without any obvious danger present was very real and effective--this is what reminded me of PAHR, one of my all-time favorite films (and overdue for another viewing), which also ends with a lot of unanswered questions. Any writer/director/cinematographer who is able to produce a sense of dread in the viewer when the sun is shining and there's not a cloud in sight (literally or figuratively) has a corner on my attention, and, in my opinion, has master an aspect of filmmaking that few have been able to master. I have a lot of respect for that.
I'm sure I would benefit from watching Meek's Cutoff again, but we'll see whether or not the new and unknown wins out against it (it usually does, sadly--when I see films again, it's almost always because I'm showing them to someone else). But it will be around for me to see when I'm ready, I'm sure. Unless the world ends in a cloud of yellow gas because there's no Green Lantern to save us.
I'm having a hard time catching up to all your blog posts because I'm so far behind--I haven't seen Drive, Cold Weather, or Melancholia yet. I don't want spoilers so I don't want to read your posts. And when it's not the latest new movie, you all go back to black-and-white where my knowledge, experience, and motivation is scant. Yes, there was that nice little horror foray around Halloween, but I was out of the country and missed it. And the Meek's Cutoff discussion was so long ago, I'm sure no one will be interested in discussing it anymore. Sigh.
I anxiously await John's insulting sarcastic response to my pathetic pity party.