The Wind, 1928. The music, by Carl Davis, is - and I rarely use such terms - mindblowing. The images are romantic poetry, the sublime in terms of film. The train journey with which it begins reminds of Jarmusch's marvellous Dead Man, a 1995 Johnny Depp movie. I take the following from the information provided by the The Jew of Malta (he or she has been reading Christopher Marlowe) who put it up on YouTube along with other great silents.
"This elemental drama plays like a darker version of The Gold Rush, in which the continual incursion of the natural world externalises repressed anxieties and desires, rather than facilitating comic ingenuity or conventional pathos. To an extent, these anxieties centre on the sexual life of the protagonist (Lillian Gish) who, upon arriving in the country, is almost immediately forced to choose between three questionable suitors. Fortunately, Sjöström directs Gish so as to bring out her naturalistic proclivities - or, more accurately, deflects her melodramatic proclivities into the desert landscapes which form a backdrop to her performance. Shot on location in the Mojave, these are the centrepiece of the film, engulfing the characters in a manner that was to be literalised in the original conclusion, but was tactically omitted - much to Sjöström and the cast's dismay. The wind sequences are particularly astounding, produced by eight aeroplane propellors that allow Gish to perform her trademark swoon and collapse on an entirely realistic pretext. At the same time, this desert-based drama is prevented from reaching the status of a proto-Western by the conspicuous absence of horizons, which reduces vast expanses to small wind-, sand- and night-bound units, thereby speaking to those national anxieties figured in the false dichotomy between Letty's claustrophobic cabin and the outdoors or, more generally, between the banality and grandeur of America." - Billy Stevenson.
There is often more elemental power in early silents than in many later, technically sophisticated, films. Despite the frequent resort to melodrama it is sheer driving vision that carries them. Characterisation is rudimentary, as perhaps it has to be without dialogue and the spoken word. Melodrama has a dream-dimension. As in dreams, persons and objects loom and drift and blow about our sleeping faculties. We feel their vast presences.