Over at Getafilm Daniel Getahun has initiated a fun meme to
name your favorite movie period and place, and, I thought, this is right up my alley because I love films that have a strong sense of place with meticulous art direction that takes you back in time or into the future or into a world that has never existed.
I realized it would be very hard to pick just one place, but I wanted to pick just one. Otherwise I’d have to list just about all the movies I love. In addition, I can think of all sorts of places in films that are wonderfully evoked, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to spend much time there. The Five Points section of old New York is vividly represented in Gangs of New York, but I don’t think I’d come out of there alive.
Anyway, here it is –
Early 1900s; the Ludlow Ranch, Montana, from Legends of the Fall (1994)
When I first saw this film, the opening scenes of the three Ludlow brothers, Alfred (Aidan Quinn), Tristan (Brad Pitt), and Samuel (Henry Thomas), running through the woods and pretending to be Indians in the wilderness near the log ranch built by their father, William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins), really choked me up. It reminded me of family camping vacations in the great National Parks of the West and of my two brothers and me running through the woods, pretending to be Indians.
Because of those vacations and my deep love of Westerns, the Ludlow ranch and the land around it struck me as the most idyllic place to live: in that huge log house, next to that river, with those massive mountains rearing up in the distance. Besides being beautiful, this is a place that is haunted by my favorite episodes in American history. Here plains tribes like the Cheyenne and Lakota lived a life guided by ritual. This was their spirit land that they fought for against the encroaching whites. (The novella by Jim Harrison mentions that Ludlow despised Custer and celebrated when he learned that Custer had been killed at the Little Bighorn.) “Hokahey!” William Ludlow fought to allow the Indians to keep their land. When that failed, he escaped the madness and built this sanctuary far from the negative effects of civilization.
This place is so lucidly depicted that it sucks you in. I can smell the grass and the wood smoke and the horses. The huge house is a real place. I love the dining room where the brothers throw dinner rolls at each other. The meat looks delicious. I love the living room where William reads Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by the fireplace. Who wouldn’t want to have Anthony Hopkins as a father? Ludlow is English; so was my father, and he looked somewhat like Anthony Hopkins and combed his hair exactly like Hopkins does in the film.
I love the bedrooms. You can smell the wood and the fresh linens. I’d love to share one of those rooms with Julia Ormond. Outside, I’d love the play games and have picnics in the grass and shoot Winchesters at targets and practice roping cows and get lassoed by Julia Ormond.
Some settings are flat and merely representational. This place has depth. The magnificent cinematography of John Toll makes the mountains feel so close. James Horner’s musical score suggests the epic nature of this story and place. The ranch and the land around it constitute a very real place where I would love to live.
What’s your favorite little world in a movie? Post a comment here or post on your blog and link to Getafilm - or both.