If I may be so bold as to quote myself, I believe I said that seeing all the corruption in Serpico made me want to go live in a cave. Well, Jeremiah Johnson cured me of that. You’d think that if you, or, say, Robert Redford went off to be a mountain man that your problems would consist largely of wild animals, inclement weather, scarce resources, and loneliness, but you’d be wrong.
There you are, just walkin’ around the woods when some lunatic almost gets you killed by a bear or the Indians. Then one day you’re just passing by a shack, and you find this crazy lady talking to her dead family. The next thing you know, she’s giving you her only surviving son, and you’ve got yourself a decent, but not very talkative kid to drag around. Before long, you’re made to marry an Indian girl who doesn’t speak your language and cooks weird food, and NONE of it was your idea.
Just when the wife and kid start to grow on you, the freakin’ cavalry knocks on your door and demands your help.
“But I left,” you explain, “I’m a mountain man.”
“Oh, that’s swell,” they say, “because today we just happen to need a mountain man.”
“I’m sorry, I’m not interested.”
“Oh really, Mr. Johnson? Because if you don’t help, a whole bunch of Christian women and children will die.”
What can you do? They’re all staring at you, and you’re pretty sure these upstanding citizens will do something to you if you don’t help, so you try to lead them over the stupid pass to their stupid friends whose stupid wagons got stuck in the stupid mud. And then, these idiots get the bright idea to ride right through a sacred Indian burial ground. Right there your happy little mountain life is all over, and what ruined it? A rabid badger? A blizzard? No! People!
Jeremiah Johnson is an excellent movie, but it is kind of infuriating. Even 150 years ago the world was all used up, and it makes you wonder if there ever was such a thing as the good old days. It may evoke feelings of misanthropy, but the movie certainly offers up a compelling story and an appealing protagonist.