It is a wonderful setup for a movie – two lonely houses on the prairie, no one around for miles, and some sort of evil spirit lurking. The spirit that comes at night, on the wind, and terrorizes the women in each house. The husbands don’t believe their wives about it, and the wives don’t want to talk of the spirit to each other either. And so, these two couples are tortured from within and without as they try to tame the west.
Such is the pitch for director Emma Tammi’s “The Wind,” and it is a good one. It is a contained story with few characters and the potential to be terrifying. The lead, Caitlin Gerard, plays one of the wives, Lizzy, a tough woman who has gone through much in her life on the prairie and is more reticent than her husband, Isaac (Ashley Zukerman), about having to help the newlyweds, Emma (Julia Goldani Telles) and Gideon (Dylan McTee) who have moved in about a mile away.
Gerard is fantastic in the role, bringing this character to life and causing the audience to sympathize with her and it is no easy task as the film (written by Teresa Sutherland), insists on jumping back and forth between two different moments on the prairie and never really moving anywhere.
Well, it intertwines the two different periods—the time immediately after the newlywed’s arrival, with some time later—until it decides to add in a third. Tammi’s film has already jumped the track before that addition takes place, and once it does, rather than setting things right, there is no hope whatsoever of the piece finding its way back on course. Each individual period dealt with in “The Wind” is interesting in and of itself, but there is too much ground to cover over the movie, and jumping back and forth winds up feelings like a way of not having to fill in specific details. It becomes a tool of obfuscation rather than elucidation.
Throughout the movie, the audience is given hints about what is really going on. There are hints about the couples. Hints about the spirit. Hints about why things are the way they are. There is little, however, in the way of explanation and while the movie need not paint a complete picture, it must do more than it does.
The issue is exacerbated as events unfold and questions mount. After a fight between Lizzy and Isaac, Isaac storms out of the house. Quite quickly, the spirit arrives and windows shatter. Shouldn’t that be enough to convince Isaac of the spirit’s existence? No matter his anger and whether he believed in the spirit or not, shouldn’t he have turned around when the glass went flying? He is shown to be a compassionate, good, loving, person. Why is he not in this one, single, moment?
There is an answer to this that makes the most sense – if Isaac returns, the movie can’t proceed in the direction it is going and tell the story it wants to tell. Yes, this is an unsatisfactory answer, but the only one the audience can truly accept.
Tammi has so many of the details right in “The Wind.” The atmosphere she is able to create in this desolate location is wonderfully creepy. The costumes and sets and everything else are used to great effect. The dynamics between and within the couples themselves are great. It is all so incredibly tactile. And then, as we watch, the whole affair fizzles. There is clearly a story that wants to be told, but it never comes forth. It is never involved nor engrossing. It is as ethereal as the wind itself – always swirling around, always right there, and never something we can grasp.
photo credit: IFC Films