26 April 2016 | jespersc
Hero's Island--vintage 1960s
Is blacknorth right in his review; is this "probably the finest film of the 60's"? In retrospect, that was a golden age, and Stevens' film was close in time to, for example, Dr. Strangelove, Psycho, Chimes at Midnight, Viridiana, or Jules and Jim. Even so, I agree, Hero's Island is superlatively accomplished. I would like to comment on just one aspect of the film that has been ignored by others: its formal perfection. The story of settlers with legal right to an island, versus fishermen claiming squatter's right, is told with utmost clarity and effect, partly due to the logic of its dramatic construction that takes the form of a series of moves across a shoreline, back and forth, according to the phases of the struggle. In brief:
--First, the settlers land on the island, unload their goods and raise a large cross to seal their ownership.
--Then, a drunk fisherman kills the settler, who falls out into the water, only his feet on land. He is, however, properly buried in his own soil.
--A pirate on a raft is washed ashore. Out of self-interest he helps chase the fishermen back to their boat.
--The younger fisherman opposes continued fighting and is thrown overboard. The settlers bring him to land.
--With money stolen from the settlers, the fishermen brings a brutal officer and bounty hunter from the mainland. With two soldiers, he takes up position on the beach. Here a sword fight eventually resolves the conflict. The fight carries on, from the sand into the water, and onto a boat; as the officer dies here, evil is exorcised from the island.
--The pirate flees the scene in a boat, leaving the widow of the settler and one fisherman as the owners of the land. This elementary scheme may not be noticed by the viewer, but the optimal use of minimal means, nevertheless, contributes to the film's strong impact.