Friday, January 12, 2024

The Settlers (2023) opens today


If THE SETTLERS was made as a straight on "western" with no intention of being a polemic about the treatment of the indigenous people of South America, or where ever people colonized, it would have had infinitely more impact that the pompous pretentious and ridiculous no duh film that exists now.

The film is set in Chile in 1901. A group of men are running fence for a rich land baron who own most of the country. It's such a unforgiving place that when a man loses his arm the man in charge, a former British army Lieutenant, just shoots him dead because he is no longer of use. The Lieutenant is then sent to find a passable way to the Atlantic for the sheep by his boss. Taking a half-indigenous man and a tracker from Texas then men set out across the wilderness and do terrible things to the people they meet and have terrible things done to them.

Set in a world where bad things happen to everyone THE SETTLERS plays like a exploitation classic as filtered through the art house, white people do terrible things to the indigenous people and then are shocked when other white people do terrible things to them.  Everything is colored in such away to let us know that what happened was bad. We are preached to for a solid 80 minutes and then we get a jump of a decade when we are told more bad things about the Lieutenant and it's revealed that governments suck. The message gets lost in the polemical nature of it all ... and the laughter at the silliness of it all (yes I was quietly giggling)

A huge part of the problem film is completely over the top in it's portrayal of everything, especially man's inhumanity to man that it becomes silly. People die, women  and men are raped and everyone who isn't rich gets abused. There is no light what so ever in any of this and so it's ridiculous. Everyone is bad or forced to to bad things. The film makes this clear by going graphic on the violence as often as possible. The thing is there is no need to see most of what we see other than to titillate the art house crowd. We don't need to the blood and gore and violence because it's simply gilding the lily and loses it's power quickly. I mean why show the Lieutenant being raped when we know from the screams and prior dialog what was happening.

To be fair, had this been a straight on western with no sturm and drang about how awful settlers, and over reliance on "shocking" violence it would have said volumes because it could have just told a tale without trying to be pompous and holier than thou. We would have gotten the point. Most audiences don't need to be spoon fed about man's inhumanity the way some art house crowds do.

And the plot might have actually made sense and not be just been three guys riding across the pampas being macho. Seriously they ride, meet people and either fight them or kill them, but they don't seem to actually be doing anything related to their "mission", except kill the locals. Again this might have worked had the script, which is very much about "important things" not spelled it out. (And even if they were just supposed to kill, the thought of three guys just roaming a vast empty waste land is ludicrous, more so when you hear of the terrible things that happened after)

I'd skip this one.

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