Hostiles and Wind River – America’s Unresolved Grief


You ride him up in that blind path, and you took that knife of yours and you cut him from end to end. Yes I did. D.H. Lawrence wrote that ‘the essential
American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.’ The quote is used at the beginning of Hostiles,
which tells the story about a battle-hardened captain who has to escort his former enemy
to his ancestral home. This will be done. And it will be done by you. Along the way, we learn about America’s
long history of violence. I hate them. I got a warbag of reasons to hate them. And the fundamental problem of coming to terms
with a past that cannot be undone. For even after the public opinions changed,
the crimes had been formally condemned, and all the old grievances seemed to have been
reconciled with… a fatal wound is still inflicted; the Native American has been severed from
his family, his culture and his history. Condemned to live on as a lost soul. Bad news is you’re never gonna be the same. You’re never gonna be whole. Not ever again. Wind River reveals the unforgiving reality
of life in the Indian reservations, the appointed home for the Native Americans. After the murder of a young girl, a close
friend of the grieving family joins the investigation to find justice in a place that structurally
fails to provide this. I’m a hunter, Marvin. What do you think I’m doing? The story echoes the deeper wounds of the past, the loss of wholeness that occurred more
than a 100 years earlier. It just riles me the way the government treats
them, that’s all. They’re human beings.
They deserve to be treated as such. And need I mention they were here first?
– that’ll do That they’re dispossessed at our hand
and have received nothing – That’s enough. There is an undeniable anger and sadness here,
but as these films also show; they are not the only ones who have suffered. Americans carry the collective pain of a nation
built on violence; A nation that, if it were to restore that wrongdoing,
would cease to exist. but more importantly; they too are individual
human beings who have known loss and pain, who have faced injustice and tragedy. I get so mad I want to fight the whole world. You got any idea what that feels like? I do. So despite everything that divides them, after
so much anger and cruelty, so many years of hatred being met with hatred,
murder with murder, of having lost,
of being torn by violence, we find it is exactly this grief, this sorrow
that binds them. These are not the first westerns that have
made this point, that have moved beyond the black and white depictions of morality to
explore the complexity of American History. I’m not gonna stand here and tell you that life’s fair, because it ain’t. To either of us. But, you know, what do we do? But what really struck me about Hostiles and Wind River is how they deal with this deep, underlying sorrow resulting from its implications. Like many films, they show the desire for justice,
the longing for a reckoning. But as satisfying as this may be, it doesn’t
fix what was broken. It’s not a substitute for the wholeness
that was taken. And yet, this is often where it ends;
after all is said and done, the lone gunslinger wanders off to the horizon; back into the vast landscape of the Wild West. He is a drifter who has fulfilled his purpose
and must now move on. It reflects the spirit of his ancestors, who,
according to D.H. Lawrence came to America to get away, away from themselves, away from everything, to “henceforth be masterless”. But as Lawrence emphasizes; this kind of freedom
isn’t true freedom, it isn’t wholeness; “Men are free when they are in a living homeland, not when they are straying and breaking away. The most unfree souls go west, and shout of freedom. The shout is a rattling of chains, always was.” In this sense, the escape into the Wild West
feels more like a desire to escape the pain, to not have to face the violence that has been inflicted, to not have to experience true grief. I just wanted the bad to go away. Wanted answers, to questions that
couldn’t be answered. And this, I believe, is where Hostiles and
Wind River present a subtle, yet significant progression of the western genre, and perhaps,
of the American soul. Both films are marked by the acknowledgement
of a fundamental sorrow; of a wound that cannot be healed;
a pain that must be carried forever. It’s a kind of grief that cannot be escaped,
that cannot be reconciled with, but it can be carried together. And for that, the lone gunfighter no longer
rides off into the sunset, no longer isolates himself. He stays. Not for judgement, not for salvation, but
just to share the pain. Got time to sit with me? Oh, I ain’t going nowhere.

100 thoughts on “Hostiles and Wind River – America’s Unresolved Grief

  1. As a European whose country was occupied by the Germans in WWII (my family lived in Operation Market Garden territory), I’ve always had a fascination with this darker side of America’s history. Because unlike my country’s history with Germany, which today is basically water under the bridge, America’s past (at least; as its been portrayed in the western genre) still feels largely unprocessed, unresolved; the sorrow is still so tangible. And I think the combination of Hostiles and Wind River formed an interesting thematic duo to explore that. Let me know your thoughts!

  2. There are some that believe that by forgetting the past, we can move on from it towards a better future. However, I believe that forgetting is the same as denying the past. It is us refusing to acknowledge the events that led to where we are now. It's only by remembering that pain, acknowledging that others share in it, that we find unity; that we are bound by sorrow. And it is through that bond that we may find a small measure of peace and, perhaps, forgiveness.

  3. Loved both these movies. So great to see them in an analysis together.

  4. You continue to impress with your essays. Truly enjoy all of your videos. Keep up the good work. 👏

  5. I will watch this again but I found the tone of your analysis disturbingly pretentious and myopic. Admittedly I have put off watching Hostiles, as I didn't want to see another Western from the white man's POV. I may get round to it. Wind River as a story I appreciated, but I found it disturbing that something so horrific would happen to a family, and yet they (particularly the father) were not given any form of agency. The filmmakers made them dependent and paralysed whilst a white knight rode in and saved them. Like a rifle butt in the teeth, reminding we the viewer again of the power dynamics behind the film. For myself and many others, there is no darker side to American history. America's history is a dark and disturbing nightmare period, from which its citizens have never been able to awake from, only to lurch hopelessly and zombie-like in a dystopian present.

  6. This was yet again, poetically spoken. Although I don't think these movies were an accurate depiction of history. Your summary in part said two things to me. 1) this is representative of unhealed cultural guilt – which I disagree with. 2) humans are bound by being human and our natures regardless of time, culture, or circumstances – which is the main point here, and I do agree with you. There are too many personal stories to box them into one idea as told by movies (i.e., Natives are broken because of white man. Full stop.). We can't say there's an unhealed guilt. There's little justice when wrongs are done in this world and throughout history, and the past can't be changed. At the same time, the history is skewed to make people think it was a particular way, or that it's a group that did it to another group. That's just too simplistic, and untrue. The only group I see consistent throughout history are military leaders, governments, and upper educated classes decimating and integrating the conquered people for the benefit of the power hungry to have their dreams lived. They tell spinned stories to the ignorant people, who in turn believe them (ex: Look at that group! They are bad. They will ruin our way of life! They must be changed or annihilated!) . That's not guilt. That's just inaccurate twisting of facts to point to others, dividing people, instead of the real sources. At what point do we stop blaming one culture for another's choice to live as they choose, presently speaking? The Jews are a case and point. Many were unjustifiably destroyed and killed (as were the Russian people, and others through known historical records), yet they maintained their family values, their religion, and their choices to regroup or even improve their lives. History in a box just doesn't cut it. But as the movie starkly pointed out (and as you), the human condition crosses all barriers of ideas or events in our personal lives, personal circumstances, good and bad. Our experiences and subsequent choices make the human condition relational to all people. Anyway, I watched the movie "Hostiles" because I wanted to hear your video, which gets to the heart of human nature, regardless of the history weaved into the literature and movies. I simply wanted to state that movies are artistic stories, not accurate facts of history nor some "unhealed cultural guilt". The movie did try to point to this, but it was poorly depicted, broken, and unrealistically told. Stories are a telling of the human condition within a narrative. I wonder if some of your audience/followers are educated enough to be aware that history can be weaved into any story, and humans love stories, but remembering they are the narrative of the storyteller and even made-up. It's not a cause to rise up against each other, or blame current "others" for a past long gone, or even feel guilty for someone else's past poor choices. The story of subjugation is a repeating human event, as I pointed to the sources above. So, how are individuals and families going to deal with it and be soothed/healed by it? Usually by coupling ourselves intimately with another, or intimately relating to another person, as Hostiles showed throughout and in the ending.

  7. Aw man, you made me cry. But without catharsis there cannot be change

  8. Wind River was so underrated! This is the first mention of it I see on YouTube and I'm glad you're giving it attention.

  9. LSOO, Very Interesting. This shows up in my feed, and now my mind is pondering these points. Though I have seen both of these films and enjoyed them immensely, I now see them in a different light. Thanks for this.

  10. Hostiles was epic, scott cooper is low key the best director in so long you just don’t understand till his movie is past you then you get what hes done

  11. I just realized something….these videos…..they have, in a very true and spiritual way, become a kind of 'church' for my soul; a place for reflection and deepening, the very best effect a church can have.

  12. I often cry when I watch your videos. That is a compliment!

  13. I had seen Wind River a while back and Hostiles was on my watchlist. I saw your new upload thumbnail for this 2 weeks back. I watched it last night and made it a point that the first thing watched today on Youtube should be this video. Words cant express how moved I am by the interpretation and how amazed I am at your nuanced diligence for each video! Splendid stuff!

  14. I thought you were making a 'the fountain' analysis. I have been asking for months, please.

  15. Not to throw cold water of reality on your bleeding heart pity parade….but, when you look at real history, which is seldom taught, you'll find the "Native Americans" (which is an improper title because America was created by the settlers, therefore their descendants would be native) were not the tree hugging hippies that anti-America Hollywood keeps portraying…. in fact, science is showing all life is not what we thought it was. Let's bury the past, not to escape guilt, but to release unhealthy baggage no one should carry around.

  16. You should do one of these about the last of us and how trauma affects ones psyche and values.

  17. It's sad that videos like this, delving into themes that are not grand or entertaining, get so little views. This tiny but significant evolution of the Western – sitting with this sorrow as opposed to leaving it behind – is such an interesting point, but most people dont care about film to that level.

  18. This was a pretty deep video man, I was born and raised on the reservation, and this was just a really great video man I don't know what else to say about it

  19. Please do a film analysis on the Jurassic Park movies and how divorce is used in each one as a common theme for the children

  20. This response to recent American cinema/history is utterly remarkable, beautiful. Empathetic in a wider sense of global guilt and sorrow for everyday's barrage of news and disgrace. Thank you

  21. I went out and watched both these films as a result of this video essay. Wind River is incredible and Hostiles is a powerful film as well. Thank you.

  22. Watching a movie, is manipulating minds to believe in things that are not real. Hitler copied Chaplins moustache with this in mind…successfully

  23. We are a violent specie; it's not only in "America"…take a look to what happens, let's use the verb in continuum, in my own country with our local native americans as well. Greetings from Chile.

  24. The Indian tribes were at constant war with each other before any if the evil white Europeans. So take your daily red pill. Rest of the video is okay in my opinion.

  25. You sir are a clever Dutchman. I salute you from Engerland from a brother nation.

  26. Two of my favorite movies in the last few years. They're both incredible.

  27. I'm cherokee and I only know two words in cherokee. My mimi is the only one in my family who can speak cherokee.

  28. It’s very satisfying to see Rosamond Pike scream and cry after what she did in gone girl. I still can’t forgive her for that!

  29. Western is the most racist of film genres, also portraying the Cain/Abel struggle in favor of agriculture and the demise of nature. The Roots of America are rotten because their inability to accept the rise of the nation from native genocide, inmigrant exploitation and african slave labor. Clint Eastwood attempted to redeem the genre since the 90's with 'Unforgiven' (Mel Brooks satire 'Blazing Saddles as precedent), and so the tendency now is to protray a much darker and less romanticized West. But I think there's still a long way to go for both representation and country to come to terms with their past…Thanx, great video a usual!!!

  30. Re: Wind River (Hostiles)

    While watching this film I took note of the hunter-tracker and killer theme of the contained native wild man who has that quality of a swaddled baby that was wrapped a little to tightly. Wind River exuded a definite paranoia in the edginess, remoteness, and confrontations of two differing tribes of men presented in the story line.
    The crossover confrontation is about a woman and her attraction to a man, the raping of the woman by his coworkers, and her subsequent death by the elements.
    Its a birth trauma and child rearing theme explored by Stanislav Grof in Beyond the Brain: Birth, Death, and Transcendence (1985). The blue and white death mask of the Indian girl's father is more or less set in stone and has an enduring granite-like memorial to it.
    The hunter-tracker also tells his grieving friend a story of a counselor speaking of the harshness of life events, the unforgiving and unforgotten, and the struggles of personal endurance.

    Another film dealing with a renegade wanderlust in life is The Glass Castle. In this film a woman with fringe hippie-like artistic qualities is painting a tree in the sparse domain of the desert and speaks to her wounded daughter of a wind blown tree as a struggle to survive against all hardships, saying "The wind's been beaten that tree down since the day it was born. But it refuses to fall. It's the struggle that gives it its beauty."
    The child's father also explains to his wounded daughter the nature of life by way of a philosophical diatribe: "You see the top of the flames where the yellow dissolves into the heat? That zone is know in physics as the boundary between turbulence and order. Its a place where no rules apply. Or at least, they haven't figured 'em out yet. And that's how life is, a bunch of molecules bouncing off each other at random. So there's no point in trying to find a reason or pattern for why you were born at a certain time or why you got bit by that fire. You just got a little to close to the chaos is all."

  31. The ending of Hostiles made me tear up and last time I got sad for a movie ending was a long time ago. I shed some tears not because of its emotional context but the beautiful symbolism behind it. Delivering home the core messages the film presented throughout from beginning to end. Closure and atonement, letting go of the past and acknowledging our sins. Not because we should hold on to that pain. But to move on and learn from our pain, learn how it humbled us to appreciate all life for what it is. Because we are all human. And we all make mistakes.

  32. This video should be watched here in Saskatchewan. There is so much anger and pain between Dene, Cree, and white Canadians. Even though we have a lot more in common than other eastern Canadians.

  33. Why does every video you make have me in tears 37 seconds in? I love it. Keep up the amazing, beautiful work.

  34. These films are my new favorites in the genre. Instead of telling, it shows the brutality of this conflict and how it still is a cloud over our heads. Dancing with Wolves for a long time was the only one to do this.

  35. These could be the best video series of film analysis on YouTube. Amazing work.

  36. I've seen a lot of video essays and I love many of them but nothing compares to this one. I feel this one in my soul– deep in the part of me who's a Westerner first and an American second. The sorrow that permeates through these movies is a very real sorrow that I've felt, that I continue to feel. It comes to me when I think of the West– of the vistas and plains, of the creeks and mountains– and think of the loss of connection to the Earth. We pave it, we tear it up, we settle it and we mine it but we aren't connected to it. Not anymore.

  37. There is no such thing as inter-species morality. Our exist depends upon the murder of other species, our immune system destroying infections, harvesting of living plants, testing treatments on animals, and slaughter of livestock. To say that behavior which is necessary for life is immoral is to relegate morality to death, in essence defining morality out of existence. Americans can only choose not to repeat the mistakes of the past, there is no need for anything further than that to achieve forgiveness, in fact it is only we who can forgive ourselves. Native Americans have the opportunity to reinvent their culture, because the only important aspect of culture is values and institutions that maintain the existence of those values. An inability to forgive those who have trespassed against you is only a weight for you to bear and does not hurt those who hurt you. Native Americans alive now are whole, nothing was taken from them.

  38. I'd love to see your analysis on contact 1997 and how it possibly parallels therapeutic interventions such as gestalt therapy and also Heidegger's authenticity.. I really admire your work, it makes me cry sometimes..

  39. This is brilliant. This dude always makes me think more and more about film. Love it

  40. EXCELLENT choice in using Martin Puehringer's two tracks. Brilliant choice of music. How neither of them has been picked up for a film in the vein of Wind River or Hostiles, I cannot quite fathom, but there it is.
    Also, a good observation of a subtle shift in the American Western. Not yet seen Hostiles, but Wind River I think stood as film of the year last year for me for all the reasons you cite.

  41. Would be amazing if you could do a something like this on the movie: Grave of the fireflies

  42. Man, these two movies were brutally violent and kinda hit me like a train, not knowing what I was getting myself into. But also, they were hauntingly beautiful, the majestic landscapes juxtaposed to the mindless slaughter and the eerie violins and ululating music; you are right that they should be viewed as a pair, they are both kindred in theme as in violence. I loved them, they made me cry and I greatly enjoyed your analysis. You are doing a great job and I'm always looking for your new videos. Cheers, mate!

  43. I discovered Hostiles on Netflix a couple of months ago and was instantly obsessed. It's such a deep & emotional movie. The actors' portrayals of their characters are all flawless and gripping and I like how the movie doesn't portray the white people or the native Americans as morally black and white (as many do usually with the white people being the evil invaders). I haven't seen Wind River but I suppose I'll check that one out now!

  44. The beautiful thing about primitive ideologies is their love, respect and veneration for nature. Today, more than ever we all must reach deep inside to that instinct inside to protect nature while harnessing it. The struggle of Western man has been to challenge nature and thus overcome it. It has created the world but perhaps we should step back and see that we adventurers/pioneers and settlers have risen to the challenge but should work with nature now that we don not fear it.

  45. Also there is the last of the Mocians, dances with wolves, and most importantly thunder heart

  46. I'd watched this and commented below, not yet having seen Hostiles. Tonight, May 6th, I watched it, and my heart broke once more. How can such truths as the bloodsoaked past of humanity even exist, when the only song in me is to love the entire world? It is the only recourse, the only salve, the solitary path from where we have forever been, to what we could in the space of one breath achieve: a world of peace and healing and light, that sacred land the noblest faiths have spoken of, not by arms, not by division, not by power. Love, and love alone. Whoever you are, your words as ever are purest Mana to my soul.

  47. Its sad to see how Lawrence misunderstood what the freedom was. It wasn't looking for happiness or even a home. It was looking for peace. Painful or fulfilled. The journey west was to find peace. Sometimes alone sometimes with others. That's how the American spirit was is and always will be. Running away from a master to become his own, for better or worse.

  48. This is one of the most profound videos on the form of cinema I have ever seen. My brain.

  49. Maybe I'm bias because I live in a state with a lot of Native Americans, but this is your best video I've seen. Succinct, impactful, and, to be frank, accurate- truthful.

  50. The ending to hostiles was legit one of the best endings I've ever seen. Not dramatic but suddle and methodical

  51. I'm a white Canadian and I spent grades 1 – 3 in a town that had a majority native population and bused in students from naughtiness reservations. For three years I lived as a visible minority in this town. There are many stories I could tell of misunderstandings, mistrust, powerlessness, and hatred (sadly) of that time.
    I am a stanch advocate of Reconciliation.
    I am here to share the pain.

  52. Thank you for this video. Well Said and well put together as always. It mirrored my own thoughts after watching Mudbound last night.
    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2396589/
    After watching it I came to a true insight into 'why' slavery happened. It was to all intents and purposes unavoidable give the natural of Man and man's need to work the land to survive – a struggle that found an easy way out (Slaves – force someone else to do it for you). That perhaps wasn't the purpose of that movie but it was the take home for me. Similarly, the slaughter of the native Americans was inevitable as people moved inexorably West. A truly distructive force in the name of God and righteousness. As you pointed out in these two movies, it left an indelible wound across the soul of America. They are still in deep denial to this day. Indeed, much of their 'posturing' is to bolster their belief that what they did was for the greater good… It's a mask that most Americans wear without realising it.
    And I look on wondering at the extent of Man's pride, willing to commit any kind of depravity, just to make their own lives just a little bit more bearable… I understand it. But I do not condone it, and because of that I hate the spirit of men. Their strength (and hormones) are their weakness.

  53. Wind River was an exceptional movie and I haven't seen anything like it ever before, I haven't seen Hostiles but I need to now. I'm really happy with this channels in depth look into the philosophical depths of movies. I watched Wind River with my mom and she's not someone who's very emotionally open in certain situations but this movie made us both just look at each other and we both knew what we couldn't say. The ending scene was gritty and uncomfortable and that's what I love in cinema.

  54. Two of my favorite movies right here. I’m so glad I found your channel. Been watching one every day at least

  55. Whether it is natives, or those descended from slaves,we, in the U.S., can never seem to escape this guilt we have inherited.

    I feel absolutely no guilt for the mistakes of those I have never so much as met. To even suggest that we ought to feel guilty, is insulting. I understand "coming to terms", but you clearly have zero education when it comes to this matter. All you do is further the victimization many feel. I mean, many "African Americans" (they are not African, btw, they are simply "Americans") are demanding to be paid for the suffering of people they have no understanding of, and they blame those who were also never there.

  56. thank you for your work on grief in this and the video on New world. i cannot express how important it was and is to me. thanks for holding space.

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